A blog about planning, planning law and planning policy

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The information on this blog is not intended to be advice, legal or otherwise. You should not rely on it and I do not accept liability in connection with it. If you do have a planning law question on which you would like advice, seek legal advice from a suitably qualified solicitor. Specific advice should be sought for specific problems.

National Planning Policy Framework response

Framework?

Having crawled through this framework, I am posting below the response I have sent today.

14th October 2011 

Dear Mr Clark

 The Draft National Planning Policy Framework

I thought I would write direct with my comments on the draft NPPF.  They do not in most cases concern the content of the policy.  As you know, I am a planning lawyer with over 25 years’ experience in planning. 

 This letter is written in my personal capacity.

 1           I support the concept of a clear concise statement of planning policy. When the Planning Policy Guidance Notes were introduced in 1989 they were short and to the point.  Now they are lengthy and repetitious.   This makes the planning process expensive and difficult.

 2          It is important to recognise that there are two things going on in the NPPF.  There is elaboration of the strong presumption in favour of sustainable development announced by the Chancellor in his Budget speech.  And there is other planning policy.

 3          The campaign against the NPPF waged over the summer is based on a misunderstanding of planning law – planning decisions are based on the development plan and all material considerations, of which a strong presumption announced by one of the most senior Government ministers is one.  But so are green belt policy, countryside protection, the importance of conserving assets and re-using brownfield land.

 4          There has been a presumption in favour of development since 1923.  It was there when the current framework was put in place in 1947, and has been consistently re-iterated since then. You have the references.  So this is nothing new, and the law is not being changed either; decisions are taken in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.  The global economic crisis is one material consideration of immense importance and the strong presumption is part of the Government’s response to that.

 5          When the presumption was expressed in the 1980s it was a presumption in favour of development which would not cause demonstrable harm to interests of acknowledged importance.  The fear of the anti-NPPF campaigners seems to be that the strong presumption would override everything. You may want to consider a similar formulation to that used in the 1980s.

 6          It would be helpful to see key principles stated clearly in the NPPF. 

 Although it deals with green belts in much the same way as at present, the long-standing presumption against inappropriate development in the green belt is not there expressly.  On the other hand the presumption against coal extraction is there loud and clear. 

 It might help if there was also a statement of policy on the countryside. Is it to be that the countryside is to be preserved for its own sake (PPG7) or “for the sake of its intrinsic character and beauty, the diversity of its landscapes, heritage and wildlife, the wealth of its natural resources and so it may be enjoyed by all” (PPS7)?   In the NPPF one has to rely on bringing together the policies in the natural environment section.

 7          Is it a strong presumption or not, and does it override the development plan?

 Since the draft NPPF was published, the use of the word “strong” has been diminishing.  Similarly I detect an emerging view that the NPPF is not intended to override up to date local plans.  The NPPF clearly requires plans to promote sustainable development.  Development plans are not in any case the last word.  They can always be overridden by other material considerations.  This would include a failure to address the global economic crisis.  But if the NPPF or the presumption is beneath, rather than over the up to date plan, I simply ask whether its power to promote sustainable development will be weakened.

 Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you or your advisers would like to discuss this further.

 Yours sincerely

 

David Brock