On 22nd December 2022, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities launched its consultation on proposed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Last updated in 2021, the NPPF is the starting point for all planning decisions and policies in England, and its content can significantly influence the ways in which our built and natural environments (and our local plans) evolve.
The consultation, which closes on 2nd March 2023, seeks to clarify housing delivery figures, promote beautiful homes, ensure food security and encourage onshore wind development, among other goals.
We have summarised the key proposed changes below.
1. A relaxation of housing delivery targets for local authorities
Whilst the 5 year land supply (the requirement for local authorities to demonstrate a 5 year supply of land for housing at all times) remains, it has been tweaked slightly so that authorities with an up-to-date local plan (i.e. less than 5 years old) do not need to demonstrate a 5YHLS. The current buffers in place are proposed for removal, and LPAs can also allow for historic over (and under) delivery when calculating their housing needs figures.
The current presumption in favour of sustainable development remains intact, but again an amendment is proposed which would allow this to be waived where development would result in inappropriate density, or where a neighbourhood plan is in place and is less than 5 years old (this was formerly 2 years).
Overall, this is a fairly significant relaxation of housing delivery policy, despite the government reiterating their aim to deliver 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s – a figure which has not been achieved since the 1960s.
2. More focus on beauty and the continued focus on design codes
Several insertions are proposed to encourage planning for beautiful buildings, over and above the previous wording of ‘well-designed’.
Whilst design codes were a feature of the 2021 NPPF, they have now been inserted in a more explicit manner – for example, it is now proposed that ‘the primary means’ of ‘improving the design of development’ is through the use of local design codes.
3. Climate change
Despite the claims of the consultation documentation, no new mentions of ‘climate change’ or the ‘environment’ are proposed. However, more support for renewable energy schemes and improvements to existing buildings is offered. A new section on onshore wind is proposed, allowing such development to be granted without planning permission where there is local support.
And for anyone who is wondering, there is no mention of street votes in the new NPPF!
The consultation is open until 2nd March 2023, with the revised NPPF due later this Spring.