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Further reforms and funds needed to back up NPPF

The government says that replacing more than 1,000 pages of national policy with about 50 will allow people and communities back into planning, but will it make any difference to regional development?

The National Planning Policy Framework was described by the government as a key part of its reforms to make the planning system less complex and more accessible, to protect the environment, and to promote sustainable growth.

Sadly there are no signs that other reforms are in the pipeline to fill the big gaps that have been left by the NPPF.

The hype misses the point; sustainability should already be a given in any new development plan, so talking about a presumption in favour of sustainable development is fairly meaningless, especially as that is what planning has been about for years anyway.

It is development of the private sector and manufacturing, not tinkering with the planning system, that is going to provide the economic boost so many parts of the UK need.

In practice it is not planning that holds up sensible proposals, and the new NPPF is no panacea to our economic woes.

Cruel exposure

The NPPF is a short-sighted initiative that will leave local planners and developers cruelly exposed to uncertainty when we finally see economic upturn.

The demise of regional guidance under current government policy looks set to precede the development of informed and practical local and community policies.

It is generally understood that the outputs of a recently concluded consultation into the effects of the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies will be put before Parliament at the earliest opportunity, after which any regional and strategic overview of planning will disappear in short order. This will leave local planners without useful points of reference.

Local plans, even if and when they are published, cannot fully plug the gap that will be left in the wake of the demise of strategic overviews.

While there is no prospect of strategic planning being provided for the English regions on anything approaching the Scottish or Welsh models, there is little real doubt among developers and planners at local level that the oversight provided by regional planning guidance was, overall, a good thing.

In practical terms, the new NPPF is geared towards meeting the demand for more housing in the South-east.

It may marginally speed up some housing development, but while planning is necessary for development, it is not sufficient. Unless there is development money it is not going to happen.

Philip Lewis is regional director and head of planning at Atmos Consulting

 

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