The government published in December 2023 its delayed new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied.
The focus is on housing delivery, but it does include several other provisions. The main provisions of interest to the sector are summarised below:
- Plan Making – It emphasises that preparing and maintaining up-to-date locally prepared plans (Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans etc.) is a priority and providing for sufficient housing and other development in a sustainable manner is a main objective of this.
- Calculating Housing Need – It confirms that the standard method for calculating housing need in a local authority is an advisory starting point but adds that exceptional circumstances will be required for using an alternative method. Local authorities with an up-to-date local plan will no longer need to continually show a deliverable five-year housing land supply.
- Housing Land Supply Buffers – The 5% and 10% buffers that can be applied to local authority housing land supply calculations have been removed, but where there is a history of under delivery of housing a 20% buffer may be applied.
- Housing Need – Older people have been added to the list of specific groups for which local authorities must consider meeting their housing need.
- Neighbourhood Plans – Includes some greater protection for them where proposed housing development conflicts with a neighbourhood plan.
- Green Belt – The previous requirement that their boundaries should be reviewed or changed when local plans are being prepared or updated has been replaced by that local authorities may choose to review and alter Green Belt boundaries in exceptional circumstances, with changes made through the plan-making process.
- Affordable Housing/Community-led Development – All references to entry-level housing exception sites or similar have been replaced with community-led developments or similar, (the glossary accompanying the NPPF includes a definition of community-led development, which it is assumed includes town and parish councils). Other text has been amended to encourage community-led development not only in terms of housing.
- Agricultural Land – Emphasises that its availability and quality should be considered when allocating agricultural land for development.
- Density of Development – Significant uplifts in the average density of residential development are inappropriate where it would be wholly out of character with the existing area.
- Design and Local Design Codes – Emphasises the use of local design codes prepared in line with the National Model Design Code as well as beautiful and well-designed places.
- Planning Conditions – They should refer to clear and accurate plans and drawings.
- Energy Efficiency – Significant weight should be given to the need to support energy efficiency and low carbon heating improvements to existing buildings, both domestic and non-domestic.
- Implementation – Where plans reach pre-submission consultation after 19 March 2024, the policies in the new NPPF will apply. Plans that reach pre-submission consultation on or before this date will be examined under the previous version of the NPPF.
- Several changes which were proposed in the consultation version of the NPPF have not been carried through into the final one. These include amending the ‘soundness’ test for the preparation of Local and that the past “irresponsible planning behaviour” by applicants could in future be taken into account when determining planning applications.
- There are further consultations to follow including on climate change adaptation and flood-risk management, provision of social homes and electric vehicle charging points.
- The government will be issuing guidance clarifying some aspects of the reforms, for example, it has just issued guidance on where brownfield development in the Green Belt can occur provided the openness of the Green Belt is not harmed.
More information about the revised NPPF, supporting documents and the review process can be found at National Planning Policy Framework.