The NPPF final draft is published

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The NPPF final draft is published

After many months of deliberation and anticipation, the final draft of the  National Planning Policy Framework was formally published on Tuesday 27th March 2012. In his defining moment announcing the NPPF, Greg Clark told the House of Commons  that the objectives of the planning reforms were 1) to empower communities to influence how their areas are developed 2) to  give the next generation the chance at home ownership, and 3) to create economic growth and jobs.

The NPPF’s key amendments from the first draft were the strengthened wording stating that developers must build on brownfield land first and the reintroduction of the Town Centre First Policy.  ‘Presumption in favour of sustainable development’ has been kept in the framework –  but with a more detailed definition of ‘sustainable development’ which recognises the value of rural, economic and social nature of the development, against the need for more economic growth.  The framework now also sets out a transitional period, allowing councils 12 months to amend or develop their local plans.  Crucially, it explicitly calls on local authorities to accommodate the aims of all neighbourhood plans when developing the plans. This is the area of the NPPF that particularly overlaps with the Localism Act. The relationship between these two policies will be significant to the wider success of the planning reforms.

Tellingly, campaigners from both the property industry and conservationists such as the National Trust and CPRE have welcomed the final draft, heralding the success of their own campaigns in ensuring the inclusion/amendments of policies and wording in the final document. Greg Clark and the CLG must be commended for creating a framework that now strikes a far healthier balance between development and the environment.  As the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles asserted, the NPPF should ensure that “it will be easier to build in the right place and harder to build in the wrong place.”

Now the attention turns from central to local Government, as we await to see if they can create Local Plans that abide to the new framework, whilst providing a clear and strong basis for planning application decisions. If not, we could be moving into an era of ‘planning via appeal’, as both developers and campaigners take to the courts to overturn decisions. Only time will tell if this will happen, but in the mean time the Government can give them selves a pat on the back for both holding their nerve on the unpopular/controversial reforms and for getting its content right on their second attempt.

Andrew Todd, Account Executive

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