Government Releases its Long Awaited National Planning Policy Framework

July 25thsaw the Government begin a consultation concerning the draft National Planning Policy Framework, a document intending to streamline national policy from a huge 1000 pages, down to just 52.

Ministers have claimed that the volume and complexity of existing policy had made planning “increasingly inaccessible to all but specialists”. By significantly reducing the size and foreboding nature of the document, they hope to allow all potential planners the ability to understand the laws without the cost of a lawyer.

The Government has stated that the framework “underlines the need for councils to work closely with communities and businesses and actively seek opportunities for sustainable growth to rebuild the economy; helping to deliver the homes, jobs, and infrastructure needed for a growing population whilst protecting the environment”.

As to the last aspect above, protecting the environment, the Government also stated that the draft indicated that proposals should be approved promptly unless they would compromise key sustainable development principles.

In terms of housing, the government made this statement:
“The framework maintains the expectation that councils should have a rolling five-year supply of deliverable sites to meet their housing needs with at least a 20% additional allowance to create competition and choice in the land market.” It then added, “They should also bring back into use empty homes and buildings wherever possible.”

Ministers claim “powerful protections for communities to safeguard the natural and historic environment” would fortify the proposed framework. They also insisted that the government remained committed to protecting the green belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. All development on these sites will remain prohibited, but local authorities will be encouraged to open up walking routes, improve biodiversity and regenerate damaged landscapes.

The consultation will last 12 weeks, from 25th July to 17th October, and will include workshops around the country. Both Houses of Parliament will be given the opportunity to scrutinise the draft framework.

Eventually, the document should take shape into a planning policy framework far better in its concision and ease of access than its predecessor. The Government seems to strongly believe that by doing so they will be able to promote stronger, more sustainable growth for the future.

25th July 2011