Government publishes long awaited revised NPPF
24 July 2018 | Planning Policy Updates
Government publishes revised NPPF
The final version of the revised NPPF was published on 24th July 2018 and follows over two years of public and stakeholder engagement. In response, almost 30,000 responses were received since the start of the consultation document. It however remains questionable as to whether the changes offered will make any difference to the Government’s objective of providing 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s. This revised document replaces the previous NPPF published in March 2012. The following provides a brief summary of the changes.
- Local plans
There is a greater emphasis on the need for local authorities to demonstrate joint working and effective co-operation when preparing new local plans. The objective is to speed up plan coverage.
There is a requirement for plans to be updated every five years. There are however subtle changes which have been put into place to arguably make it easier and quicker for LPAs to produce a plan; one such change is that concerning the assessment of local plan soundness; a local plan must now simply be 'an' appropriate strategy rather than ‘the most appropriate’.
- Green belt
The Government has made it clear that the Green Belt is here to stay. Providing it is first led by a policy in a local plan, it will be possible to amend Green Belt boundaries via a Neighbourhood Plan. Furthermore, the NPPF offers encouragement for the sustainable re-use of previously developed land in the Green Belt where identified affordable housing needs can be met. New procedures have been put in place which require all other ‘reasonable’ options, for example urban regeneration, to be ‘fully evidenced and justified’ before any Green Belt is released at the time of plan production.
- Neighbourhood Plans
Generally, the NPPF revision continues the thread of localism and support provided to Neighbourhood planning. This is perhaps evidenced by para 30 of the revised NPPF which confirms;
‘Once a neighbourhood plan has been brought into force, the policies it contains take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in a local plan covering the neighbourhood area, where they are in conflict; unless they are superseded by strategic or non-strategic policies that are adopted subsequently.’
Importantly, Neighbourhood plans are seen as a tool to increase the quality of design.
- Housing need
The revised NPPF confirms the introduction of the new standard method of assessing housing need, by which councils can calculate the housing need of their local community, including different types of housing for different groups within the community. From November 2018, a Housing Delivery Test (HDT) will focus on increasing the numbers of homes delivered in a council’s area, rather than how many homes are planned. This will penalise councils that under-deliver over three years. Furthermore, in September 2018, the release of household projections are expected.
Under the revised NPPF (paragraph 74), local authorities will be required to identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide a minimum of five years' worth of housing against their housing requirement (plus a buffer), or against their local housing need where the strategic plan is more than five years old.
It is apparent therefore that whilst the methodology is confirmed for now, everything may change, following the release of household projections in September 2018.
- Viability and Affordable Housing:
With regard to affordable housing, the NPPF provides a more detailed and broader definition of tenures, including discounted market sale (set at 20%). For the first time, a national minimum affordable housing requirement is introduced of 10% (on-site), however there are notable exemptions for Build to Rent and specialist accommodation.
In terms of viability, the revised NPPF removes the possibility for plans to set out circumstances when further viability assessment may be required in determining individual planning applications. As explained in para 57 of the NPPF, the burden is placed on applicants at the application stage to demonstrate whether particular circumstances justify the need for a viability assessment.
- Garden Villages / New Settlements and Delivery:
The NPPF revision re-introduces references to Garden Village Principles, dropped from the earlier draft. The policy recognises the important role for larger scale strategic development.
In connection with the proposed Buckover Garden Village, Ridge Partner, Mark Chadwick, commented ‘We welcome the policy recognition for Garden Villages which when carefully planned can significantly and efficiently contribute to the 10-15 year housing delivery.”
- Urban Design and Density:
The NPPF revision increases the emphasis on high quality design whilst ensuring the effective use of land. Councils are encouraged to make use of innovative visual tools to promote better design and quality. Local communities are encouraged to become more involved in raising the standards of design. Furthermore, councils are empowered to refuse permission for development if the standard of design is of an insufficient quality (para 130). Guidelines encourage councils to use new visual tools to influence better design and quality, allowing residents to see proposed schemes before they are built.
- Small sites
Emphasis is placed upon the significance of small sites in meeting the housing requirement for an area.
LPAs are encouraged to identify, through the development plan and brownfield registers, land to accommodate at least 10% of their housing requirement on sites no larger than one hectare; unless it can be shown, through the preparation of relevant plan policies, that there are strong reasons why this 10% target cannot be achieved.
Emphasis is placed upon the fact that conditions and planning obligations should be kept to a minimum and should only be used where they are necessary, relevant to planning and to the development to be permitted, enforceable, precise and reasonable in all other respects. This reference to conditions is new and emphasises that LPAs must carefully consider the use of planning conditions ensuring that they meet the tests outlined in para 56.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.