Well it's here. The long awaited NPPF was published on the 27th March and immediately comes into action, guiding and informing the planning system in England for the foreseeable future.All of the current Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPG's) and Planning Policy Statements (PPS's) are revoked and replaced by the NPPF.
So, no more speculation. Let's get on with understanding its implications for future planning and development.
The National Planning Policy Framework constitutes guidance for local planning authorities and decision-takers both in drawing up plans and as a material consideration in determining applications.The document contains 219 provisions over 49 pages, together with Implementation and Glossary appendices.
The document has to be read as a whole. But here are Ten Key Points from the new Framework that establish the principles. In separate blogs I will look at specific topic areas (Economic Development; Housing Development: Rural Development; Tourism & Leisure; The Caravan Industry) and provide the top 10 points in relation to these.The full NPPF document can be found at the link below. The numbers in brackets refer to the relevant paragraph in the NPPF.
1. Local planning authorities should approach decision-taking in a positive way to foster the delivery of sustainable development. (186)
The NPPF goes on to note that: Local planning authorities should look for solutions rather than problems, and decision-takers at every level should seek to approve applications for sustainable development where possible. (187)
This is good to hear, but may prove a difficult transformation for many in the planning system who were brought up on the 'Can Don't' attitude of Local Plan policy rather than 'Can Do'. This reversion to the pre-1990 approach to planning is welcomed and, at last in the 21st century, planners may get a chance to really 'plan' rather than simply act as Local Plan gatekeepers.
2. For 12 months from the day of publication [27th March 2012], decision-takers may continue to give full weight to relevant policies adopted since 2004 even if there is a limited degree of conflict with this Framework. (214)
This provision provides some breathing space for local authorities who will continue to apply current policies to planning applications. However, if a development proposal is supported under the Framework, but this gives rise to more than a limited conflict between the Local Plan and the Framework, the question of degree will come in to play. Arguably very old plans adopted and unaltered since 2004 (and there are a few out there) may come under particular scrutiny.
3. From the day of publication, decision-takers may also give weight to relevant policies in emerging plans. (216)
This includes any emerging Core Strategies or other Local Development Framework documents. The weight to be attached increases the more advanced the document is toward adoption.
4. Planning decisions must be taken in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. (150)
Good to see this provision retained. Despite everything there may still be circumstances where the development plan is not appropriate or directly relevant and this provides some flexibility to consider all the circumstances, not just those anticipated in the Plan.
5. Proposed development that accords with an up-to-date Local Plan should be approved, and proposed development that conflicts should be refused unless other material considerations indicate otherwise. (12)
The point here is that if the Plan says yes, then planning permission should be granted. This also means that involvement in the Plan-making process should be very high on everyone's To-Do list to make sure that the positive attitude toward sustainable development is reinforced for the future.
6. ...to achieve sustainable development, economic, social and environmental gains should be sought jointly and simultaneously through the planning system. The planning system should play an active role in guiding development to sustainable solutions. (8)
Planning proposals have to be considered in a comprehensive manner, having regard to the three key tenets of sustainable development (as set out in Para 7)
7. Within the overarching roles that the planning system ought to play, a set of  core land-use planning principles should underpin both plan-making and decision-taking. (17)
These principles reinforce the need for planning to be plan-led with empowerment of local people and succinct, up to date plans setting out a positive vision. High quality design and good development standards are implicit with encouragement of a transition toward low carbon initiatives.
8. As with previous Green Belt policy, inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances. (87)
Despite the eye watering hysteria over Green Belt protection from those who really should know better, it was never the case that there would be open-season for development in Green Belts. The NPPF retains all the protection of long standing guidance in PPG 2: Green Belts and only 'very special circumstances' will apply. So, no change there then.
9. Early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses is essential. (155)
"You've got to be in it to win it". Make sure you engage with the Local Plan making process from the outset. This will be ramping up quickly now to ensure up-to-date plan coverage and there are very real opportunities to engage with and influence the development future for your area.
10. At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking. (14)
No small amount of discussion and angst has been displayed in relation to this one issue over the last 12 months. When read in context with the remainder of the Framework it is quite clear that this is not a “developers’ charter” or provides opportunities to “concrete over the countryside”. It simply requires that planners need to think positively about the needs of their area, seek relevant supporting information, engage with all parties and be positive in ensuring that the identified and needed development is carried out as efficiently and effectively as possible without placing unnecessary and uneconomic policy barriers in its way.
I've been here before; appearing at over 40 Local Plan Inquiries and making written representations for many more, most recently in relation to the Isle of Wight Core Strategy, where the Inspector accepted my submissions and made significant beneficial alterations to the finally adopted Plan.
If you require further information in relation to the NPPF and its implications for your business then please contact me at:firstname.lastname@example.org www.ruralurbanplanning.co.uk
The full NPPF document can be found at:http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/2116950.pdf