New Government Planning Policy

The Government has published a Draft National Policy Framework which can be seen here.  We are still in the process of reading it but have picked up on some key points.

There are worries that the policy as drafted would weaken the powers of local authorities to refuse large-scale developments.  As reported in the Guardian ” It is also claimed that the plan could lead to more sprawl and congestion, after ministers announced there would be a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” written into the policy.”

Sustainable Development is described as follows.

At the heart of the planning system is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan making and decision taking. Local planning authorities should plan positively for new development, and approve all individual proposals wherever possible.  Local planning authorities should:
prepare Local Plans on the basis that objectively assessed development needs should be met, and with sufficient flexibility to respond to rapid shifts in demand or other economic changes
approve development proposals that accord with statutory plans without delay; and
grant permission where the plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date.
All of these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole.

To us these, together with the presumption in favour of developments, makes it heavily weighted towards development as Damian Carrington writes.  developers seem quite happy with the policy, perhaps not surprisingly but the National Trust appear to have grave concerns saying.

“This finally sounds the death-knell to the principle established in the 1940s that the planning system should be used to protect what is most special in the landscape, creating a tool to promote economic growth in its stead”.

Through neighbourhood planning the intention is to allow communities to have a say in the detailed planning for their areas, but it appears to be in terms of promoting development rather than managing or planning it.

17. The application of the presumption will have implications for how communities engage in neighbourhood planning. Critically, it will mean that neighbourhoods should:

• develop plans that support the strategic development needs set out in Local Plans, including policies for housing and economic development
• plan positively to support local development, with the power to promote more development than is set out in the Local Plan; and
• identify opportunities to use neighbourhood development orders to grant planning permission for developments that are consistent with an adopted neighbourhood plan.

This is a Draft Planning policy at the moment and a consultation is being carried out to which you can respond here.