The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 27 March 2012 and came into effect immediately. Annex 3 of the NPPF specifies all the documents replaced also with immediate effect. This includes all Planning Policy Guidance/Statements, as well as Circular 05/2005 on Planning Obligations, and a number of ‘Chief Planning Officer’ letters issued by the Government over the past few years. The Main themes that we have picked up on so far are:
1. The NPPF couldn’t be clearer in its message that, “at the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development”. Its message to Local Planning Authorities is equally clear, that they should be, “approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay” and should, “look for solutions rather than problems.” Indeed, although the statement in the Draft that the “the default answer to development should be ‘Yes'” has gone from the final version of the NPPF, the meaning from the draft remains. This is set out in the contents of paragraph 14 of the NPPF.
2. The NPPF sets a transitional allowance relative to existing Local Plans (if adopted under the 2004 Act), and Councils who have a 2004 Act plan in place can continue to give the existing Local Plan full weight for 12 months until 27 March 2013 even if there is ‘limited degree of conflict’ with the NPPF. In the case of Local Plans that were adopted under the old system (and this includes Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury, for example) then the weight to be given to relevant policies in these plans varies according to the degree of consistency with the NPPF (the closer the policies in the plan to the policies in the Framework, the greater the weight that may be given).
3. Paragraph 17 of the NPPF sets out 12 core principles that should, “underpin both plan-making and decision-taking.” The first factor (in combination with the contents of paragraph 14) reinforces the need for Councils to prepare Local Plans without delay; “planing should be genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings, with succinct local and neighbourhood plans setting out a positive vision for the future of the area. “
Other more minor (but in some specific cases may be equally significant) changes relate to the fact that there is now more scope to replace and/or extend non-residential buildings in the Green Belt, and paragraph 65 perhaps offers the increased chance to design a quality building as a good piece architecture and sustainable development in a non-designated area that might not otherwise necessarily be compatible with existing character.
The main thrust is to get the economy moving again, but at the same time recognise the important designations that exist.