The National Planning Policy Framework - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. "Planning is part art, part science and part politics, quite rightly, and there will be uncertainties, difficulty and argument all the time".[1] Planning has to balance the development, use and preservation of land for this and future generations, within the wider context of social, environmental and economic needs. The proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a key part of the Government's overall programme of reform of the English planning system.

2. The Coalition Agreement (published in May 2010) committed the Government to present to Parliament

    a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities.[2]

In December 2010, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published a general consultation, inviting organisations and individuals to suggest ways in which to make the planning system more streamlined and more decentralised. DCLG received around 3,426 responses by the deadline of 28 February 2011. Also, in December 2010, the Minister for Decentralisation and Cities, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, set up a 'Practitioners Advisory Group' (PAG) to prepare a first draft of the NPPF.[3] The PAG published its draft on 20 May 2011. Subsequently, in July 2011, the Government published its draft of the NPPF for consultation. The consultation ended on 17 October 2011 and DCLG received over 10,000 responses.[4] DCLG has indicated that the new national planning policy will be published by April 2012[5] and that the finalised document will replace all current Planning Policy Statements (PPSs) and Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPGs).[6] If this happens, over 1,000 pages of documentation will be replaced by around 50 pages.[7]

Our inquiry

3. The Minister invited us to comment on the draft NPPF as part of the consultation process and, when giving evidence, he assured us that he would take our views into account.[8] Given the importance of the changes proposed, their objectives and the critical impact they may have, we were anxious to accept the Government's offer and altered our programme to carry out this inquiry, the focus of which was mainly on the content of the draft NPPF itself rather than its rationale. We duly launched our inquiry in July 2011. On 25 July, we issued a call for evidence asking whether:

  • the NPPF gives sufficient guidance to local planning authorities, the Planning Inspectorate and others, including investors and developers, while giving local communities sufficient power over planning decisions;
    • the definition of 'sustainable development' is appropriate and whether the presumption in favour of sustainable development is a balanced and workable approach;
    • the 'core planning principles' are clearly and appropriately expressed;
    • the relationship between the NPPF and other national statements of planning-related policy are sufficiently clear, and whether the NPPF serves to integrate national planning policy across Government Departments;
    • the NPPF and the 'duty to co-operate' provide a sufficient basis for larger-than-local strategic planning; and
    • the policies contained in the NPPF are sufficiently evidence-based.

We also invited those submitting evidence to offer a brief general assessment of the fitness for purpose of the draft NPPF as a whole. Because of the constraints of time, we did not invite comments on the range of policy contained in the NPPF, except where policy changes raised specific issues, and we did not invite comments on the wider need for, and scope of, planning policy guidance, except for guidance on the NPPF itself.

4. We received over 130 written submissions and we held four oral evidence sessions in October and November, inviting witnesses from a range of sectors and interest groups: academics; the planning sector; local authority representatives; environmental groups; organisations whose interests were not explicitly included in the NPPF, but considered that they should be; the property sector; and business representative organisations. We are grateful to all those who gave evidence, and we would also like to thank our specialist advisers, Kelvin MacDonald and Richard Bate.[9]

5. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) also launched an inquiry, with the more specific remit of examining the extent to which the NPPF reflected sustainable development principles.[10] This followed on from its earlier inquiry on sustainable development in the Localism Bill, which discussed the need for the legislation to provide a statutory duty to apply the principles of sustainable development in the planning system.[11] The EAC held one oral evidence session, and set out its conclusions and recommendations in the annex to a letter to our Chair, dated 9 November.[12] We thank members of the EAC for their constructive contribution; it has been of considerable assistance in our deliberations and in drafting our Report, particularly providing the backbone to Chapter 4 in our Report on the definition of sustainable development. It is our intention to monitor the effect of the finalised Framework published by the Government, and later in this Parliament we expect to examine the impact of the changes to planning.

6. We can report that most witnesses to our inquiry were broadly content with the concept and approach of the NPPF in simplifying planning guidance and did not want a wholesale re-write. We recognise that the draft NPPF is just that, a draft, and not finalised. A significant part of inquiry therefore has sought to suggest improvements. Central to our consideration of the draft NPPF was an examination of the way in which it will, as guidance, interact with the statutory position of Local Plans as the bedrock of the planning system. Much of the country is not at present covered by a Local Plan prepared under the 2004 legislation. The NPPF seeks to stimulate the production of Local Plans, and also to provide both a policy context within which new plans should be developed, and a basis for decision-making in the absence of a Local Plan. In this report we consider first the Government's justifications for introducing the NPPF. We then go on to consider whether the content of the draft NPPF provides a clear basis for balanced decision-making, the processes by which Local Plans will be compiled, their relationship to the NPPF and the transition to the new system, and finally we look at some individual policy changes which have a bearing on the potential impact of the new planning regime.

1   Q 51 [Hugh Ellis] Back

2   HM Government, The Coalition: our programme for government, May 2016, p 11 Back

3   PAG had four members: Pete Andrew (Director of Land and Planning, Taylor Wimpey UK); Simon Marsh (Acting Head of Sustainable Development, RSPB); Cllr Gary Porter (Leader of South Holland District Council and then Chair of LGA Environment and Housing Programme Board); and John Rhodes (Director of Quod planning consultancy). Back

4   HC Deb, 20 October 2011, col 1077 Back

5   DCLG, Business Plan 2011-15, November 2010, p 26 Back

6   DCLG, Draft National Planning Policy Framework: consultation, July 2011, p 34 Back

7   DCLG, Draft National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF], July 2011, p vi Back

8   Q 337 Back

9   Kelvin MacDonald declared the following interests: Chief Policy Adviser to the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) which involves, inter alia: (i) working with Government Ministers, CLG civil servants, other interested groups, and members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in relation to the planning related Clauses of the Localism Bill; this work includes preparing briefings, suggesting amendments and attending meetings with all the groups, above, as part of RTPI delegations; (ii) acting as the RTPI's representative on a Planning Sounding Board first established by the Conservative Party before the 2010 election and now chaired by John Howell MP, PPS to Decentralisation Minister, Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP; this group is considering the Localism Bill and the nature and content of the National Planning Policy Framework. Registered Commissioner on the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which meant he cannot, therefore, express opinions on the merits of any nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) that may come before the IPC currently or in the future. Senior Visiting Fellow at the Department of Land Economy, Cambridge University; Member of the Enabling Panel for the Design Council - CABE; Member of the Board of Trustees of Shelter.

Richard Bate declared the following interests: Town planning consultant and member of the Royal Town Planning Institute who has been employed over the years by many clients, including Government Departments and Agencies, seeking advice on current and future national planning policy and has provided advice on national planning policy to organisations such as the National Trust, Minerals Industry Research Organisation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Campaign to Protect Rural England, and National Housing Federation, though he is not retained by clients relevant to this inquiry, adviser to the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit on the NPPF and provision of advice to clients with a direct or indirect interest in the Framework. At July 2011 completing one very small relevant task (two days) for one client on maintaining the interests of statutorily protected landscapes through the planning system. He is a partner in the consultancy Green Balance. Back

10   Environment Audit Committee, Sustainable Development in the National Planning Policy Framework, HC 1480 Back

11   Environmental Audit Committee, Third Report of Session 2010-12, Sustainable development in the Localism Bill, HC 799, 22 March 2011 Back

12   Environment Audit Committee, Sustainable Development in the National Planning Policy Framework, HC 1480, p 4 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 21 December 2011