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Government planning framework sparks reaction

The Government’s bid to simplify planning policy while putting sustainable development at its heart has been widely welcomed by the industry.

But there have been some concerns over how a more streamlined National Planning Policy Framework will work in practice. These are some of the responses:

Stephen Thornton, head of external affairs at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said:  “We welcome the framework as a significant step forward in unlocking the planning system to deliver the growth required by UK Plc. We are pleased to see this concise outline of national planning policy at a strategic level rather than the thousands of pages of guidance that currently lose the thrust of what the Government is trying to achieve.”

Brian Berry, Federation of Master Builders director of external affairs said:  “The proposal to streamline our complicated planning system and introduce a presumption in favour of sustainable development is welcome news. For too long the planning system has been a break on much needed development particularly for new homes.”

Chief executive of the British Property Federation Liz Peace said:  “Planning policy should be streamlined, succinct and to the point if it is to deliver the growth and sustainable development that this country needs.  We understand that the new draft framework follows closely the version submitted by the Practitioners Advisory Group which fully incorporated these principles. On that basis we will have no problem in giving the Framework our ringing endorsement.”

Katja Hall, Confederation of British Industry chief policy director, said: “It’s vital there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development to balance the shift towards localism with the need for economic growth. This should send out a strong signal to local authorities that it is possible to grow the economy while behaving responsibly to our environment. I hope this change will help to attract the £200 billion in investment we need to build our decarbonised energy future.”

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) director general Tom Foulkes said:  “It’s absolutely imperative that we make the planning system more ‘user-friendly’ to ensure over-complicated applications and processing delays do not deter investors as they have done in the past. However we would warn against over-simplifying such an important area of guidance which must deal effectively with infrastructure projects that are crucial to both the national and local economies.”

Noble Francis, economics director at the Construction Products Association welcomed the framework, but said two issues will be key to its success; resource and enforcement. He said: “Putting the framework into practice could prove challenging, especially with the resource implications upon local authorities and it is vital that government ensures that local authorities consistently adhere to it.”

The Royal Town Planning Institute described the NPPF as a missed opportunity. RTPI President Richard Summers said: “It fails to set out a vision for the development that is needed to support a growing population and to promote economic growth across the country and that is effectively linked with infrastructure to redress existing and potential geographical and social disparities. The relationship between the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the primacy of locally-led development plans is not clear.”

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “It’s a hugely significant milestone in delivering a reformed planning system that better supports ‘good growth’ to create jobs and meet housing need. There is much to welcome.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “Most of these proposed changes are very welcome in that they offer a real sense of certainty for a range of construction and development projects much needed by local authorities. But we worry that the localism agenda will make it more difficult to deliver essential major infrastructure projects in future. We will be contributing to the ongoing consultation to ensure that the unique needs, and benefits, of infrastructure are fully understood by those drawing up the framework.”

Paul King, CEO of UK Green Building Council applauded the emphasis on the need to achieve ‘radical reductions’ in greenhouse gas emissions through both new developments and through support for the refurbishment of existing buildings.  He added:  “However, we would like to see greater clarity around what constitutes ‘sustainable development’, in order to ensure that the highest possible standards of sustainability are reached in each local authority, and in order to provide certainty to the development industry.”

Fiona Reynolds, National Trust Director-General, said: The National Trust believes in growth as we all do – but not at any cost. Development that works must pass a triple bottom line test – by showing that it meets the needs of people and the environment as well as the economy. Despite some warm words to this effect, the document makes it clear that development is to be encouraged, even urging local authorities to promote more development than is in the plan and over-allocate land for housing.”

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