Drop your PPSs; Pick up your LDP; Dust off your SPG; the NPPF is here!

The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) just launched by the Coalition government relinquishes central control for the detailed interpretation of sustainable development to local authorities, once again putting the decisions into the hands of the decision-makers.

This was the message from the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), the professional body for built and historic environment conservation specialists.

IHBC Chair Jo Evans said: ‘The most important aspect of the published NPPF is the short time given to adapt from existing policy practice. Right now we have exactly what government sought: power in local hands. So remember, if you don’t have the policy in your local development plan (LDP), or linked to it through supplementary planning guidance (SPG), then your only back-up national planning policy is the NPPF, and the over-riding imperatives there are self-evident.’

‘The withdrawal of previous national policy also now means that the local planning authority can decide exactly how, and how far, it wants to interpret and apply the terms of the NPPF. Whether we are talking about sustainable development, significance or setting, or anything else, it is up to the local plan to decide where it wants to draw the lines. As long as the details are in the local plan, and it doesn’t flout the NPPF, then local people are now in the driving seat!’

‘We are very conscious too, though, that none of this changes the over-riding imperatives and statutory obligations determined by the 1990 Act, or the relevant case law supporting it. So we must also maintain our focus on those!’

Government says:

‘The new 50 page document, which replaces over 1,300 pages of inherited policy in 44 separate documents delivers on the Coalition Agreement’s commitment to “publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities” by April 2012.

The new Framework has been produced following an extensive consultation with Parliament and the public.

The Framework gives guidance to local councils in drawing up local plans and on making decisions on planning applications.

The Government aim is for every area to have a clear local plan which sets out local people’s views of how they wish their community to develop, consistent with the Framework and against which planning applications for planning permission will be judged.

Local plans have a responsibility to meet the objectively-assessed needs of their area for homes, business premises, schools and other social and cultural facilities, while protecting and enhancing the natural and historic environment.

The final Framework retains all of the key elements of the draft Framework published in July 2011, including:

· enshrining the local plan – produced by local people – as the keystone of the planning system

· making planning much simpler and more accessible – reducing over 1,300 pages of often impenetrable jargon in 44 separate documents into a clear, readable guide of 50 pages

· establishing a powerful presumption in favour of sustainable development that underpins all local plans and decisions

· guaranteeing robust protections for our natural and historic environment, including the Green Belt, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest

· encouraging the use of brownfield land in a way determined locally.

In addition, the new Framework strengthens the requirement for new development to be of good design; supports local councils who wish to bring into being a new generation of garden cities; allows communities to specify where renewable energy such as wind farms should, and should not, be located; and following the recommendation of the Portas Review allows councils to provide the parking facilities in town centres that will help them compete with out-of-town shopping centres and supermarkets.

The new Framework comes into force with immediate effect for plan-making and decisions. Appropriate implementation arrangements agreed with the Local Government Association have been put in place for local authorities with up-to-date policies in local plans. Immediate advice and support is available to councils through a joint team of the Local Government Association, the Planning Inspectorate and the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This is another important milestone in the Government’s historic mission to transfer power from the hands of unelected bodies and put it in the hands of people and communities. The Localism Act has allowed us to start scrapping Regional Spatial Strategies which gave development a bad name by imposing top down targets that owed nothing to local needs and threatened the Green Belt. These reforms go a step further and make it clear that local communities have the responsibility and the power to decide the look and feel of the places they love.”

Planning Minister Greg Clark said: “The new Framework has been strengthened by the responses to the consultation. We have confirmed the core reforms, sharpened the definition of the policies, and emphasised the essential balance that the planning system must achieve. These reforms will help build the homes the next generation needs, it will let businesses expand and create jobs, and it will conserve what we hold dear in our matchless countryside and the fabric of our history.”

Find the download link for the NPPF here: LINK

See the technical guidance (on flood risk and minerals policy) here: LINK 

See Clark’s statement to Parliament here: LINK

To understand why local authorities need Conservation Officers see: LINK

Dept Communities Article : LINK

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