National Planning Policy updates advice on rural building

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been updated and makes changes to advice on building within rural areas. The document previously required a home to be ‘innovative’ in order to be built in a rural area, but this clause has been removed from the policy.

The NPPF was first created in 2012, and sets out the government’s planning policy for housing, with references to transport, the natural environment and business. The NPPF is a reference point for local authorities when local plans are written, and is used in the decision making process of local planning applications. The NPPF has gone through a number of revisions over the years and has just been updated again, in July 2021.

The new version reflects some of the proposals of the independent Living with Beauty report by the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, which urged government to make it easier for local authorities to reject planning applications on design grounds.


The revised policy says that development should be encouraged if the quality of design is ‘exceptional’, in that it raises the standards of design in rural areas and would enhance the immediate setting, while also being sensitive to the characteristics of the local area.

This change to policy means that builders no longer need to demonstrate that their home is ‘innovative’, and will perhaps make it easier to persuade a local authority that new buildings should be granted planning permission.

Local need

There is greater weight on building houses that reflect local need. This includes affordable housing, and local authorities should consider whether creating additional market homes on these sites may facilitate the provision of affordable homes. The subdivision of existing residential properties is also encouraged.

There is emphasis on building within current villages and communities. Sustainable development should be located where it will ‘enhance or maintain’ rural communities, and should provide opportunities for villages to ‘grow and thrive’. In groups of smaller villages, increased development in one village may be more acceptable if the development also supports the local services in other nearby villages.

The reuse of redundant or disused buildings is encouraged – if the proposed redevelopment of the buildings will enhance the setting. However, rural development should represent the ‘optimal viable use’ of heritage assets. Historic England defines a heritage asset as a “building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest. Heritage asset includes designated heritage assets and assets identified by the local planning authority (including local listing) Annex 2: Glossary, National Planning Policy Framework, Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012

A new second or holiday home in the country?

No. What is no longer be acceptable is the building of isolated homes in the countryside, unless it can be established that a rural worker (or the owner of a farm business) has an essential need for the property to be near their countryside place of work and it is a permanent residence.