Consultation on National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

At the beginning of March Theresa May revealed the first major overhaul in six years to the NPPF, aiming to support the “housing revolution” outlined in the Budget in November 2017. The revised draft sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and the way in which they are expected to be applied by local authorities. It states the Government’s requirements for planning and establishes a framework within which communities and their local authorities can produce their own local and neighbourhood plans (reflecting their distinctive needs and priorities). Driven by the critical shortage of homes, the tone and substance of the draft text reinforces the political messages of recent months that the Government intend to take a more ‘muscular’ approach in trying to increase the delivery of housing.

Some of the key points are: a presumption in favour of sustainable development; a new standardised methodology for calculating housing needs; a presumption of providing affordable housing; a ‘housing delivery test’ for authorities and greater clarity on the role of neighbourhood plans in delivering housing; a reiteration of the importance of the Green Belt while permitting the use of brownfield land in the Green Belt for affordable housing; enhanced protection for the natural environment with a presumption against development, which results in loss of ancient woodland or irreplaceable habitats; and the importance of the conservation of heritage assets.

While there is much to be welcomed in the revised NPPF, particularly on developer accountability, there also lacunae and concerns. It doesn’t tackle the imbalance of power between developers and local communities and their authorities. There is an over reliance on increasing housing numbers according to the demands of the market, while not properly tackling the issue of lack of affordable housing. Despite reassurances about preserving the Green Belt, we know in St Albans (according to the consultation on the Local Plan) that in in order to meet the target for new housing, 900 homes need to be built per year up to 2036, which would mean 9-10,000 houses in the Green Belt. Has the Government set up local authorities, in areas of high demand, to fail by imposing unachievable targets?

We all, surely, wish to see developments that are well-designed and meet our local needs but St Albans is vulnerable to being over-ruled by the Government’s agenda, which is firmly focussed on numbers!

The revised NPPF has been out for consultation and St Albans Civic Society has submitted our response available here, airing our concerns. The final version of the NPPF, which will become official planning policy, is due for publication “before the summer”.

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