Budget: Planning reforms get behind growth

13th April 2012


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  • Construction ,
  • Property ,
  • Local government



The chancellor pledged to provide the UK with modern infrastructure by introducing new growth-friendly planning rules

“You can’t earn your future if you can’t get planning permission,” George Osborne told the House of Commons. He claimed that global businesses had diverted investments that could have created hundreds of jobs in the UK, because they could not get planning permission here. “That is unacceptable,” he said.

The communities and local government department issued the new national planning policy framework (NPPF) for England following the Budget.

The plan reduces more than 1,200 pages of planning guidance to 49 and is designed to empower communities to ensure local development meets their needs.

“Local plans will be the keystone of the planning system,” decentralisation minister Greg Clark said. Councils with no plans in place – around half – will implement the framework immediately and those with plans have 12 months to comply.

While the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” remains, and will see a development given the green light unless it is against the “collective interest”, the final NPPF makes a number of concessions to environmental groups after last year’s draft was heavily criticised.

Protecting the green belt, sites of special scientific interest, national parks and other areas cannot be overridden by the presumption, declared Clark.

He also said the NPPF makes it explicit that councils’ policies must encourage brownfield sites to be brought back into use. In addition, the final version deletes the words “default answer is yes” to development.

The document makes it clear that sustainable development (SD) means taking “social and environmental, as well as economic objectives” into account when deciding whether to grant planning permission.

It also strengthens its definition of SD, with more explicit reference to the Brundtland declaration, as well as the five guiding principles contained in the 2005 UK sustainable development strategy.

Despite the stronger definition of SD, there is concern that local authorities will adopt different approaches. “The problem is that the definition of ‘sustainable’ is notoriously woolly, and different local authorities will inevitably interpret it in different ways,” commented Paul Smith, director of Apex Planning Consultants.

John Box, associate at Atkins, said: “The real test of the NPPF in achieving sustainable development will depend on its interpretation by developers and planners in the context of new infrastructure and development projects.”


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