National Planning Policy Framework Consultation
This notorious document is open for consultation until 17 October. It replaces nearly 1100 pages of national planning advice and reduces regulations to a twentieth - so it must be better, said Alice. But life is complex and can't be reduced to a side of foolscap. The opening line, by the Minister for Planning, Greg Clark, sets the tone of the entire document: "The purpose of planning is to help achieve sustainable development." The main premise is that the current regulations are so long and complex that only professionals can navigate through them to make plans. This is patently not true if you have examined 12,000 applications as I have in the last ten years on your behalf. From this false premise you reach the false conclusion that the 105,000 new homes built last year, the lowest ever figure, and the lack of business building are the result of the complex planning system.
The emphasis primarily is that there should always be "a presumption in favour of sustainable development." (para 15) The corollary is that the onus of opposing development will always be negative. In order to increase the supply of new housing LPAs should identify specific developable sites for up to fifteen years and they should not make allowance for windfall sites in the first ten years of a rolling supply.
In para 49, the idea of neighbourhood plans is put forward to allow parishes and neighbourhoods to produce their own plans, set planning policies and indeed give planning permission through Community Right to Build Orders. If this is to work, England will need much more robust very local councils - parishes in rural areas, but in urban areas, what?
The Design Statement clearly favours an attitude of non- interference in prescriptive design codes but does support a Design Panel in every area. Advertisements should be subject to control only in the interests of amenity and public safety - a very woolly concept which will be hard to argue. The tenor of the Historic Environment section is generally supportive to existing Heritage assets particularly Listed Buildings, but is very even-handed regarding developments affecting those assets and the presumption for development.
This very brief document is finely written and crystal clear in its objectives. It is necessarily very short on detail so it isn't certain where it will reach. The sentiment is not good for those of us, like the Society's members, who cherish an environment, both historic and otherwise, in a never ending battle against trivialisation and commercialism.