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Friday, 30 September 2011

NPPF: Are the Gloves On or Off?

The debate concerning the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation, which closes on 17 October 2011, continues.

But has the slugfest I referred to in More Planning Ping Pong calmed down?

Yesterday, the National Trust (NT), which seems to be leading the campaign against the NPPF and setting the agenda, put more flesh on the bones of its objections by issuing its manifesto called Planning for People, headlined “We believe in growth – but not at all costs”.

It says “planning exists to serve the economy, society and the environment” – which is what the government is saying too, so the argument is about how you achieve that goal.

The government seems nervous at the prospect of alienating NT members, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s letter last week.

The NT says the NPPF, by being weighted so heavily in the interests of economic development, does not deliver the truly sustainable approach that it promises; fails adequately to define how decisions are to be made, leading to greater uncertainty and delay; and that by insisting on a default “yes” to development, takes power further away from local people.

Specifically, the NT says:

1.    The planning system should not be used as a blunt tool proactively to drive development.
2.    Planning should promote genuinely sustainable development – multiple outcomes for people and environment as well as growth.
3.    Clause 130 of the Localism Bill should be revoked – financial payments should not be rewarded in the planning process.
4.    The NPPF should see no weakening of protection for designated countryside and heritage – planning should continue to protect the wider countryside for its own sake.
5.    The NPPF should adopt an explicit “brownfield first” approach.
6.    The NPPF should provide a 5 year supply of land for housing, but the requirement to identify an additional 20% of land should be dropped.
7.    The default “yes”, and the requirement to grant permission where a local plan is out of date, indeterminate or silent, is irresponsible and must be removed.
8.    Localism should be real – communities should be given genuine power to shape their area for the better.
9.    It is fundamentally wrong that neighbourhood plans should be led and funded by business; any plans, whether at neighbourhood or local authority level, should be genuinely community led.
10.  There should be a limited third party right of appeal, in circumstances where consent is granted for development that is inconsistent with the local plan. This should be guaranteed by the Localism Bill.

In the other corner, the BPF, whilst welcoming the NT’s call that the NPPF should adopt a more explicit requirement to develop brownfield land before greenfield sites, has at the same time slammed as “economically naive” the NT’s insistence that businesses cannot be considered part of their communities – the gloves are off on that point.

“Businesses should be just as entitled as residents to have a say in how their areas are developed and communities need jobs if they are not to wither and die – or become just dormitory settlements”

The BPF has responded to each of the NT’s 10 points – the gist of the BPF’s response being that in most cases the NT has either misread or misinterpreted the NPPF and that this could be dealt with by rephrasing and clarification. The BPF does not however agree at all with the NT’s stance on business, as quoted above, and does not support the NT’s call for limited third party rights of appeal.

It is only in relation to a prioritisation of brownfield land development that there appears to be agreement between the BPF and the NT (although the BPF stresses that there is not enough brownfield land to deliver all the homes and jobs). But that’s a big point nevertheless, so the government should take note.

A little more nuance has now entered the debate; they are still slugging it out, but perhaps the gloves are back on...for now at least.

Photo by Snow0810 via Flickr

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