The National Planning Policy Framework
Last July a new draft policy framework document was published which was intended to replace more than 1200 pages of planning guidance set out as rules regulations and laws in numerous different documents. The really controversial element in the draft was the presumption in favour of sustainable development in adjudicating on any planning application. It was not so much the idea of sustainability but the lack of precision as to what “sustainable” meant. There was a public outcry about this and what were regarded as the other harmful elements within the draft and The National Trust and the Daily Telegraph (amongst many other institutions) spearheaded public campaigns within the consultation period and have largely kept the pressure up ever since. From mid-October the Coalition partners in Government have been rewriting the framework and it was the revised document that was published on Monday this week.
Initial reaction seems to be that the revision, with the checks and balances now inserted, go a long way to allay the earlier fears and concerns. The full document can be picked up from the Government website but the major changes are set out below.
* Local plans produced by Councils should take account of market signals, such as land prices and housing affordability and set out a clear strategy for allocating sufficient land which is suitable for development in the their area, taking account of the needs of the residential and business communities. The framework stresses that proposals should be approved unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.
* There is a substantial definition of sustainable development set out in the five guiding principles of living within the planet’s environmental limits, ensuring a strong healthy and just society, achieving a sustainable economy, promoting good governance and using sound science responsibly.
* Apart from the earlier protections given for the green belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty there is now explicit recognition of the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. Planners are instructed to take account of the different roles and character of different areas, promoting the vitality of our main urban areas, protecting the green belts around them, recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside and supporting thriving rural communities.
* Greater emphasis is given to brownfield development. Planners are urged to encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed, provided it is not of high environmental value.
* Major sporting bodies had worried that the policy changes embodied in the earlier document might lead to a reduction in facilities for schools and clubs. Now assessments made must clearly show the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs of which clearly outweigh the loss.
What will the mean for Beckenham and Bromley Council? Its too early to say, a grace period of 12 months has been inserted so that Councils can update local plans or draw up new ones. We will keep you updated.