The HOC Environmental Audit Committee on the #NPPF – Notes – Greg Clark gets it over Sustainable Development

Today the HOC Environmental Audit Select Committee sat on its inquiry into the definition of sustainable development

A lot of time was spent duplicating the issues covered by the DCLG committee which wasnt very helpful

Because of meetings only caught up on it later on parliament player and ill only comment on the ministers comments because of lack of time and energy – no slight to Neil Sinden et al who were excellent earlier.

So what did the minister say – video here

Greg Clark

-Lively debate to be welcomed

-We have had too little planning, too much development control

-Agreement on simpler locally led system – so where is disagreement?

-the ‘presumption’ in favour of ‘sustainable development’

-Contribute your recommendations on definition of sustainability

-Purpose of planning system to bring into balance social economic and environmental

-The presumption is subordinate to the presumption in favour of the plan

-Clear policies in absence of up to date plan

-Not a loophole to have things done to communities which would be unconscionable – quite the reverse

-Rather to replicate the sort of policies that a good local authority would have anyway

Richard Benyon (Defra)

-Met at early stage on NPPF

-Working off 2005 SDS (??)

-Flood and Water Management Act (many criticisms have said how NPPF ignored this??? – very post hoc)


-Definition you have used gone back to Brundland definition rather SDS definition – clarity of definition is fundamental

Greg Clark

-Cant say if you suggest something thats a great idea because consultation not closed and havent considered all representations

-Brundtland stood test of time

-Did 2005 definition stand test of time


-Why not use PPS1 definition?

Greg Clark

-Possible that thinking has evolved since PPS1

-Some people think concentric circles not just balance

-Not just limits but expanding – Net Gain to Nature

Richard Benyon

-Flood and water management act guidance – SD is evolving concept and cannot be pinned down too narrowly.

-Example housing in water stressed area, can water be provided with managing catchment.


Section 130 Localism Bill (cash for consents)

Greg Clark

-Clear in Lords, only those matters that were material will be, only the weight it always had it will have.


Is economic priority above other matters

Greg Clark

-Not intention, no hierarchy attached.

-Not three pillars balanced against each other – economic development should improve environment, positively restore ecosystems.


So needs to changes that underscore this

Greg Clark

-Listen to representations

Richard Benyon

-Thread from Nat Env White Paper – net gain to biodiversity


-Sufficient consideration to food security

Richard Benyon

-Take seriously, quotes clause 167

-Develop brownfield before quality agricultural land


-Should local authorities decide weight of ‘three pillars’

Greg Clark

-Not miserabilist view of least damage that can be done

-Design that doesn’t take the opportunity to improve the character of an area should be refused.

-Not too many x references to other documents in case they become out of date, but always a judgement [thats why the scottish equivalent is kept up to date on line]


-Transitional arrangements?

Greg Clark

-Cant pre-empt consultation, suggestions have been made

-No stepping back from localist agenda of giving communities less say than current

-Well before April will set out transition arrangements


-Cited on appeals, no local plan?

Greg Clark

-Transitional arrangements, consultation document not yet policy document


-Example of housing built around edge of national park

Greg Clark

-Local plan will determine this
-rather decisions were taken in communities by communities than on appeal
-duty to cooperate strengthened from listening to RTPI and others
-Test of soundness if full discharged
-Unfair that planners caught in crossfire – planners want to shape places
-Better that localities make tough decisions rather than be shifted outside them
-How much testing have you done it will work as you say
Greg Clark
-consultation is testing this over unintended consequences
-Suggested phrases could put beyond doubt certain issues e.g. brownfield first
Q (Zac G)
-Burden of proof shifted onto local planning authorities
Greg Clark
-No clear from the plans [this is weak answer to this question whose job is it to show compliance with plan]
Q (Zac G)
-Will this simply make LPAS produce all embracing highly restrictive plans.
Greg Clark
-Rather that than application by application fights
Q (Zac G)
-Can Neighbourhood PLans be more restrictive
Greg Clark
-neighbourhood plans need to be consistent with local plans
Q (Zac G)

-Second shorter consultation given scale of changes needed?

Greg Clark

-Some of the evidence nostalgic to regional approach – clear we are not  going back to that

-Will put together proposed final version and publish that before it is adopted [a clear hint there will be a second consultation]


-Why no SEA

Greg Clark

-Unlike national policy statements not spatial

-Defra methodology for valuing ecosystem services used

Greg Clark

-Understanding aplied (no mention of this in impact statement) –

Design Council Cabe: Back of the Envelope Response to the #NPPF

Here – astonishing

Design Council Cabe welcomes the NPPF as part of the reform of the planning system to create a simplified, more inclusive process.

Good planning is fundamental to the production and maintenance of well-designed, good quality places that create both the physical and social conditions for sustainable economic growth.

Research shows that 87% of people agree that better quality buildings and public spaces can improve quality of life (Ipsos Mori, 2009). Design Council Cabe believes that places that are well-planned, designed, development and maintained provide a better quality of life for everyone – including delivering sustainable development for future generations.

A good planning process enables decisions to be made that balance diverse and competing needs that are inherent in any development. A good design process is about working through these problems and finding shared solutions.

Design Council Cabe is pleased by the significant recognition in the draft NPPF of the role of design in achieving sustainable development. There are, however, areas in which the draft NPPF could be strengthened in order to meet the Government’s objectives of raising standards of design and achieving sustainable development:

1. Sustainable development

The definition of sustainable development could be strengthened by the Framework specifically stating that a good design process is an essential part of any methodology to mediate and resolve concerns around economic, social and environmental issues. This would improve the quality of schemes taken forward under the presumption in favour of sustainable development, providing confidence to both local authorities and communities that developments are fit for their local context.

It is also essential for the NPPF to recognise all the components that make up a sustainable place, including the role of green infrastructure i.e. networks of green spaces. The draft NPPF does not currently require green infrastructure to be assessed or managed in the Local Plan and/or through the duty to co-operate, and Design Council Cabe recommends that this is rectified.

2. Creating a long-term vision for places

Clear, coherent and comprehensive Local Plans should set the agenda for an area, express aspirations, be proactive and be positive about the future of a place, clearly stating how this will be achieved.

Design Council Cabe welcomes the commitment to a genuine ‘plan-led’ approach and the acknowledgement that ‘Local Plans should address the implications of economic, social and environmental change.’ However, it does not ask local authorities to set out the creation of a positive, long-term vision for a place as a strategic priority in their Local Plans. This needs to be addressed, in order to improve the overall effectiveness of Local Plans and create a shared vision for developers, local businesses and communities to improve certainty.

In addition, support will be required for local authorities, particularly during the transition process. Communities will also require advice and guidance on how best to take advantage of their increased role in plan making and decision taking. There is a broad ecosystem of organisations able to provide this support, and Design Council Cabe is committed to working with partners to find an accessible and inclusive way of inspiring and connecting people.

3. Local checks and balances

Design Council Cabe welcomes the emphasis on creating a planning system that is more accessible for all users. This is crucial to ensure the success of the new planning system which is currently seen as complex to navigate for individuals, communities and burdensome for developers.

Creating appropriate, local checks and balances must be a vital component of the system. The inclusion of Design Review methodology in the draft NPPF is welcome as this is a tried and tested mechanism by which local planning authorities and developers are able to assess the quality, impact and sustainability of projects. The quality of advice given by panels will be of critical importance; the Design Council CABE recommends that the NPPF requires Design Review arrangements be both independent and impartial and follow the industry-led best practice guidance as detailed in ‘Principles and Practice’. [1]

In addition, while we support the definition of sustainable development and agree that the NPPF (when working in concert with the Local Plan) will provide speed and certainty, there remains a concern for the transition period when local authorities will not have their plans in place. We recommend therefore that local authorities are given the appropriate resources and have access to independent expert support in order to develop or update their Local Plan.

Paul Finch, Chair of Design Council Cabe board, said:

“The NPPF should ensure that economic, social and environmental considerations are balanced to achieve true sustainable development. We believe a good design process is an essential part of any methodology to achieve this, and hope that the Government will include this in the definition of sustainable development as part of its commitment to a high quality built environment.”

Should you require further information or briefing on how best to get good quality design through the planning system, please contact Kate Jones or on 020 7420 5274.

Notes for editors

1. Design Council Cabe is part of the Design Council and is the UK’s national strategic body a Government advisor for design in the built environment


[1] Principles and Practice (CABE, Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Landscape Institute, 2008)

Historic Towns Forum #NPPF Response


The HTF is concerned that the government is preceeding on the assumption that the ‘problem’ of the planning system is that the existence of over detailed guidance and policy causes uncertainty, disputes and delays. An alternative views is that the ‘problem#…of the planning system is that people often disagree strongly about the nature of change in the environment…all the battles will still be fought, only the language of the arguments, for which there is much more room in the NPPF, will, change’.

Country Land and Business Association #NPPF Response


CLA President William Worsley said: “For years, national planning policy has undervalued the countryside and failed to meet the needs of rural areas. It is well documented that the countryside has become part-dormitory, part-theme park and part-retirement home.

“Rural businesses and communities have the same needs for jobs, homes and services that urban areas have, but rural England has suffered from urban-centric policies for decades, leading to a countryside that is less sustainable and less self-sufficient.

CPRE/FOE Press Localism Bill amendment on Sustainable Development Today #NPPF


The Government is being given the chance to “walk the walk” on planning reforms today in the Lords, charity campaigners have said.

Following a very public commitment to ensure that the new planning system will safeguard all that is best about the UK’s landscape, campaigners, including the National Trust, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Friends of the Earth, are inviting the Government to accept an amendment to the Localism Bill that will define in law precisely what that protection will mean.

The Prime Minister, in a recent letter to green groups, said that he shared their belief in protecting “our beautiful countryside” but that he wanted local groups “to decide locally how sustainable development will be delivered” The proposed amendment would define what is meant by sustainable development to ensure that this is always clear.

The charities argue that without a more precise definition, vital protections for countryside and the natural environment could be lost.

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee will also be holding an oral evidence session today as part of an inquiry into the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), during with they will hear evidence from all areas of the debate, including the Home Builders Federation and British Property Federation. Members of the Greenest Planning Ever Coalition will also be giving evidence: CPRE, the National Trust, Friends of the Earth, and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).

Commenting, Margaret Ounsley, head of public affairs at WWF-UK, said: “This is crunch time for the Government. The Prime Minister has expressed his wish to protect the countryside, and we believe that we will be giving him the tools to do so. If the Government resist this measure, one would have to wonder why.”

Neil Sinden, Policy and Campaigns Director for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:
 “After a summer of rural discontent over the proposed planning reforms, we are pleased to have had reassurances from a number of Ministers who have been saying how important the countryside is to them. These are welcome words that now need to be turned into firm legislation and policy. Amendments protecting the wider countryside ‘for its own sake’, rebalancing the appeals process, and calls for a clear definition of sustainable development, are all on the table. The time has come for Ministers to prove they are truly committed to protecting the countryside.”

Peter Nixon, Director of Conservation for the National Trust said: “It’s difficult to think of an area of government policy which is more important for leading us into a new, green economy than the planning system. To achieve the Government’s aspirations, it is vital that the definition of sustainable development is rewritten and can be effectively applied by decision makers, whether they are communities, developers, local authorities or the planning inspectorate.”

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “The Lords must amend the Government’s planning proposals to ensure a legal definition of sustainable development – without it councils will struggle to prevent damaging building projects going ahead. We need a planning system that champions new green jobs and industries, delivers a low-carbon economy and safeguards our precious environment for the future.”

Hilary Allison, policy directory at the Woodland Trust said: “The Prime Minister must now follow through on his recent assurances to protect the countryside by ensuring the wording around the protection of irreplaceable habitats within this development-focused document is clarified, and the loophole threatening ancient woodland is closed.”


Notes to editors 
[1] The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published for consultation in July; the consultation closes on 17 October 2011:
[2] Greenest Planning Ever Coalition members: Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), the National Trust, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Friends of the Earth, RSPB, WWF-UK, Wildlife and Countryside Link, and the Woodland Trust.

HBF – Opposes ‘Brownfield First’ on #NPPF, Opposes Delaying ‘presumption’

Here  In their initial evidence on the NPPF and to the select committee they said they were in favour of existing policy in PPS3, which is what campaigners are wanting to see back – which of course does make a distinction between ‘erelict, contaminated, regenerated or recreational land’ and allowed for local chopice on these matters .  So they are standing on very shaky ground.  He prefers to characiture everyone else as an ‘anti-development lobby’ even if they are lobbying for more housing.  Be fair and consistent and people might start listening.


12 October, 2011

Delaying ‘presumption’ would prolong planning vacuum and allow Local Authorities to postpone planning for their areas


“Brownfield first” proposal fatally flawed, reducing local control, removing protections for valued land and cutting housing delivery

Housebuilders today warned Government it must stand firm on its planning proposals or risk a ‘house building ice age’. Speaking at the Housing Market Intelligence conference HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said the ‘complete and utter nonsense’ of the anti development lobby must be ignored or a generation of people will be denied access to the housing market.As the consultation into the National Planning and Policy Framework (NPPF) continues. anti-development campaigners have been calling for the final NPPF to delay implementation of the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ until Local Authorities have a suitable housing plan in place.But Baseley dismisses the suggestion, pointing out that Local Authorities have had since 2004 to put plans in place yet in all that time less that a third have managed to do so.Stewart Baseley said: “To delay implementing the NPPF until Local Authorities do have a plan in place would leave us in a planning policy vacuum. It will prolong the limbo that has existed since the 2010 General Election with the old system dead but yet to be replaced. The result in too many places would be a continued failure to plan for growth or address the housing crisis in their areas”Baseley also criticised calls for a ‘brownfield first’ policy in which previously developed land has to be used for house building ahead of any other.“A brownfield first policy makes no distinction between d and what’s more, removes power from local people to decide on the future of their area. The NPPF approach is actually more sensibly focused and flexible and should result in better protection for land valued by a community.”Last year saw just 103,000 homes built in England, the lowest peace time number since 1923, against a need for 250,000; whilst planning permissions for homes that will be built over the coming years have collapsed to around half of where they should be.-  ENDS   –View NPPF: FACT NOT FICTION BROWNFIELD FIRSTView NPPF: FACT NOT FICTION TRANSITION PERIOD

For media enquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact Steve Turner on 07919 307 760 / 0207 960 1606 or


Notes to editors


  1. The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales. The HBF’s member firms account for some 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales in any one year, and include companies of all sizes, ranging from multi-national, household names through regionally based businesses to small local companies:


  3. The speech will be made at  the Housing Market Intelligence


Useful stats


  • Permissions for fewer than 34,000 new homes were approved in Q1 in England, compared with 40,000 in Q1 2010 and against a quarterly housing requirement of nearly 60,000 based on the Government’s household projections. In Q1 2006 over 60,000 permissions were granted by local authorities

  • 1.8 million families (5 million people) are currently on Local Authority waiting lists in England.

  • FTBs aged between 22 and 29 have to save 45% of their take home pay every month for five years to afford a deposit

  • The number of households is projected to grow from 21.7m in 2008 to 27.5m in 2033, a rise of 5.8m (27%), or 232,000 per year. (DCLG Household Formation Projections.)

  • Jobs Calculator:

    • Each home built creates 1.5 full-time jobs -Michael Ball report
    • Increasing house-building by 130,000 units per year (to Government household projection levels) would create 195,000 jobs.
    • HBF estimates twice that number of jobs are created in the supply chain – close to 400,000 jobs.
  • Over the last three years, home builders have invested almost £1billion in shared equity schemes to help maintain housing construction whilst helping close to 30,000 first time buyers get a foot on the ladder.

  • HBF’s  Housing Market Report (May’11) shows that 91% of house builders now see the lack of mortgage availability as a ‘major constraint;’ on their ability to sell, and thus build, homes

  • According to Government figures, even in its current crisis state, housing supply accounts for around 3% of UK GDP and provides between 1 and 1.25 million jobs in the UK.

  • In February, Local Authorities learnt for the first time how much they will receive from developing. Some will gain over £4M in New Homes Bonus whilst others will receive nothing. The figures also show that some Local Authorities will in future be missing out on up to £27M a year by scrapping previous plans for homes or not building enough to meet the needs of their communities.

• The number of new homes completed in England in 2010 slumped 13% on the previous year – itself the lowest peacetime number on record since 1923.• 18% of females and 29% males aged 20-34 still live with parents – ONS social trends Or; Over 1 million women and 1.7 million men aged between 20 and 34 are still living at home• The average age of a first time buyer (FTB) purchasing a home without financial assistance is now 37.• Whilst over 80% of people believe Britain needs more homes, particularly for first time buyers, only 50% of people would welcome more homes in their area – NHMB survey, Nov 2010.

HBF Oppose #NPPF Transition Period

Here  Or rather pointless as recent ministerial decisions have implied a transition period.  In our alternative draft we do not propose an ‘all or nothing’ in terms of the presumption before and after the transition period, rather it would apply in different ways.  This is being seriously considered.  Perhaps the HBF should pass some comments on this before getting too concerned.

Anti-NPPF groups are demanding that the government introduces a transition period within which local authorities will be able to put in place local development plans before the presumption in favour of sustainable development as set out in the NPPF applies.
1) A transition period without the presumption in favour of sustainable development would mean that local authorities would be under no pressure to produce local plans that set out their housing requirements and policies for development. Without a local plan there would be no policy basis against which planning applications could be judged.

The purpose of a presumption in favour of sustainable development is to provide some certainty for developers where there is no local plan in place. This does not give developers a “free rein” – construction will still need to adhere to the three pillars of sustainability as set out in the NPPF. In effect, the NPPF will serve as the default local plan and the provisions of the NPPF must be read as a whole. Without the Regional Strategies and the housing targets that these set, and without a local plan that has set a new housing policy approach, there is no evidence base against which to judge the appropriateness or otherwise of new development proposals. The obvious effect of this will be a continued state of limbo and a lack of growth. Without a local plan, and with out the Regional Strategies, we would have a planning system bereft of clear policy against which to plan for the future provision of housing.
2) Local authorities have already had seven years to adopt local development plans and were required by law to have one in place by 2007. Yet to date only between 25 and 30% have done so.

Local authorities need to proceed expeditiously with the production of local plans. The presumption will encourage them to do so in order that they can define what they believe is the most sustainable development for their area. If they choose not to take this responsibility then the default position should be sustainable development as defined by
the NPPF.

The housing crisis has reached a critical stage with fewer homes built last year than since the 1920s which has severe social and economic consequences, not least severe house price increases that have had a severe effect on affordability. As such it is vital that where possible delay in the planning system is avoided. The presumption in favour of sustainable development would help to prevent that delay.
3) Planning permissions have already fallen in the 17 months since the general elections during a planning policy vacuum.

The HBF produces quarterly reports revealing the number of planning permissions granted over each three month period. These results have showed a startling plunge in
the number of permissions granted over recent years with particular falls since the election in 2010. It is simply not credible to claim that house building will increase over the next few years if there is no presumption in favour of sustainable development in place where the local planning authority has not produced an up to date local plan. Instead we are likely to see
further falls in land with planning permission coming forward for development, meaning that house-building will fall even further, exacerbating rather than solving the housing

A transition period where neither presumption in favour of sustainable development nor a local plan (where it is absent) guides housing construction and growth in an area would decrease house-building, worsen the housing crisis and stifle economic recovery.

Planning Officers Society DCLG #NPPF Select Committee Written Evidence

Written evidence from the Planning Officers Society

Summary of main points
• We foresee a range of difficulties for individual authorities in setting housing
figures that: win the support of local communities while also complying with
Government policy; deal satisfactorily with the question of migration and
respond to the Framework’s expectations for affordable housing delivery;
• Existing Green Belt policy is restated with only detailed changes. This
represents a lost opportunity to revisit and refresh this sixty-year old policy in
the light of the changed world in which it now operates;
• the new regime is based on a definition of “sustainability” that seems very
strongly biased towards economic considerations. We fear the question “what
is sustainable?” could become a major debating point and an obstacle to
progress. We propose an approach that uses localism to reduce uncertainty
on the matter;
• the Government’s mixed message, about localism versus centrally-driven
policy objectives, is perpetuated in this document, with little or no
acknowledgement of the importance of localism as an element of national
planning policy;
• the duty of authorities to cooperate on strategic matters needs further
strengthening, if joint working at a local level is to be an effective replacement
for the loss of the strategic tier of planning. The Society will be coming
forward with detailed proposals;
Does the NPPF give sufficient guidance?
1. The Society acknowledges the heroic efforts that have been made to
condense national policy, but the removal of over a thousand pages of
guidance, plus the disappearance of an entire regional tier of policy, will
inevitably leave gaps that will need filling (for example, by good practice
guidance). The Government has indicated that it is not generally in the
business of producing such guidance, but the Society (no doubt along with
other bodies such as the RTPI and the TCPA) is willing to play an active part
in its development, where most needed.
2. In this context, the role of the Framework should, at the very least, be: (a) to
acknowledge (as it does in the accompanying impact assessment) that
organisations like ours are a legitimate source of supplementary guidance,
where needed and (b) to lay down broad guidelines for its preparation and
validation. With regard to these, we believe it should be: cross-sector,
prepared with the collaboration of the key agencies and representative
bodies; should be subject to consultation with the wider planning community;
and that there should be agreed methods for self-accreditation and regular
3. In its response to the Framework consultation the Society has identified a
number of areas where complementary good practice guidance would be
appropriate. Once we have seen the final form of the Framework, we and
other key stakeholders will be in a better position to identify where gaps exist,
what the priorities are, and to agree a process and a demarcation of labour
for filling them.
4. Housing requirements: The housing requirements section (28) appears to
be internally contradictory. On the one hand it talks of the plan (though the
Strategic Housing Market Assessment) catering for the needs of the “local needs arising from migration. It is of particular concern to us to know how
plans are supposed to have regard to migration in the absence of any
strategic context for it. The only basis we can see for doing it is by assuming
a perpetuation of past trends in migration, which would not provide a basis for
promoting new directions of growth where these are needed. Nor is it in our
view realistic to expect groups of local authorities, even acting in good faith
on the duty to cooperate, to come up with major proposals on the scale of
new or expanded towns, if these were needed. The paragraph also alternates
between meeting housing need and housing demand. We would strongly
oppose any model based on meeting demand. In large parts of the South
East (and elsewhere) local demand far exceeds anything that, with the best
will in the world, could realistically be delivered.
5. The Framework generally needs to be clearer about what it means by
meeting the full housing requirement (109) since, with the revocation of
regional strategies, each planning authority will have to establish the
requirement for itself. The first of the bottom four bullet points on page 30
talks of meeting the full requirements for market and affordable housing. In
many parts of the south of England, even if the authority’s full housing
allocation could be delivered as affordable, it would not be possible to meet
forecast demand for such accommodation. For many such authorities, fully
meeting that demand would be economically undeliverable and
environmentally unacceptable. It may be better for the Framework to speak of
meeting affordable housing need as being what authorities should aspire to,
subject to local circumstances.
6. The Green Belt policy (133 – 147) appears simply to perpetuate existing
policy. As originally conceived over half a century ago, Green Belt was only
half of a policy, the other half of which was the series of new and expanded
towns that were to be developed outside of the Green Belt to relieve
development pressure inside it. Now that those towns have been largely built
out, it seems an appropriate time to look at the continued operation of the
remaining half of the policy. We have for years been promised a review of
that policy, and this may be seen as a lost opportunity (albeit recognising the
difficult issues such a review might raise). This should not be taken as the
Society advocating a wholesale retreat from Green Belt, but rather as an
opportunity to refresh the rationale for and operation of Green Belt, in a
situation where circumstances are markedly different from those in place
when it was originally introduced.
Is the definition of sustainable development appropriate and is the
presumption in favour workable?
7. Whilst nobody would (presumably) object to the principle of sustainable
development, we are concerned that there will be many different
interpretations of what constitutes sustainability, and that this will prove to be
a fruitful source of delay and confusion at appeals and other planning
examinations. Few developments will score equally high (or low) against all
three of the sustainability criteria set out in paragraph 10 of the Framework,
and the relative weighting that one attaches to these could lead to very
differing views on the sustainability of a particular scheme. It should be selfevident
that this weighting will be different in a National Park, compared to,
say, an inner city regeneration area and this leads us to the view that there
should be scope for some local nuancing of the national definition. In this,
local authorities would be able to flesh out the national policy in the light of
local circumstances and thus at least limit the scope for repeatedly debating
different interpretations. Note that this is not intended to involve the
introduction of a plethora of local policies, but merely to show how national
policy could be applied flexibly at a local level. The requirement to accompany
a plan with a sustainability appraisal already allows an authority some scope
to do this, but it would be helpful if the Framework at least acknowledged this
role for the local authority, and that it should appear in the local plan itself. Not
least, such an approach would be in accord with the Government’s policy of
localism. As the Framework stands, references to sustainability in it tend only
to relate to its economic dimension, which seems some way removed from
the more balanced Brundtland Commission definition, from which it is derived.
8. At the same time, the framework might usefully make clearer the alignment
between the environmental objectives of sustainability and its economic
importance. As the foreword to the Government’s own Carbon Plan points
out: This Carbon Plan sets out a vision of a changed Britain, powered by
cleaner energy used more efficiently in our homes and businesses, with more
secure energy supplies and more stable energy prices, and benefitting from
the jobs and growth that a low-carbon economy will bring. Making this link
more explicit would give greater coherence to the rationale of the Framework.
This same point might also usefully be reinforced in the section on planning
for prosperity.
Are the core planning principles clear and appropriate?
9. Clear yes, appropriate no. There is an underlying tension between the
Government’s national aspirations for the planning system (paragraph 19)
and the principle of localism. Whilst we understand that this is a national
policy framework, nowhere in these principles does there seem to be even an
acknowledgement of any role for local discretion. The core principles should
recognise the importance of localism to planning and, so far as is necessary,
clarify its relationship to national policy objectives. The underlying assumption
seems to be that, once the national policy objectives have been put into
place, communities will fall in behind them and be happy to take whatever
residual decisions are needed to secure their implementation, in the name of
localism. The Society’s extensive contacts with local communities throughout
the country lead us to believe that this will by no means always be the case.
The Government has been critical of the imposition of a regional growth
agenda on local communities, and the resentment that this has caused. We
are not convinced that what the Government intends to be an even highergrowth
agenda, imposed nationally rather than regionally, will be any more
easily accepted, even allowing for the financial and other incentives they
intend to offer communities to accept growth. Opinion surveys have shown
that there is a much greater prospect of achieving consensus on the general
principle of providing more housing than is ever possible in getting agreement
on a specific proposal that it should be provided in a particular location.
Is the relationship between the Framework and other national policy
sufficiently clear?
10. Nowhere in the Framework does there appear to be any acknowledgement
that planning is about more than the use of land – that it is spatial (that is,
having a wider concern for how places work). Perhaps because of this,
linkages between planning and other areas of related policy tend to be poorly
developed or absent from the Framework.
Do the NPPF and the “duty to cooperate” give a sufficient basis for strategic
11. No. Whilst we welcome the strengthening of the duty to cooperate that has
emerged during the passage of the Localism Bill, we do not believe it has
gone far enough to address adequately the gaps left by the abolition of
regional strategy (44). We are therefore seeking a duty for local authorities to
prepare Strategic Infrastructure Assessments (SIAs). An SIA would be a
simple, transparent process to ensure that strategic issues such as
infrastructure, economic development, housing and the environment are
managed in a co-ordinated way by local authorities and with partners, and
ensure that these are properly addressed through the statutory planning
system. Whilst this measure was not incorporated into the Localism Bill itself,
it may be more appropriately introduced through policy. Lest they be seen as
an alternative solution to the problem, our contacts with Local Enterprise
Partnerships up and down the country lead us to doubt whether most of them
will have the resources, the expertise or the statutory powers to engage in
strategic planning (in relation to infrastructure or generally) in any meaningful
12. Collaboration and conflict resolution: The sections of the Framework
dealing with planning strategically and collaborating (45-46) seems to
presuppose that there is always a consensus waiting to be arrived at. The
reality is that some (possibly many) strategic issues will not be readily
resolved. The Framework should at least acknowledge this, and place a duty
on authorities to take all reasonable steps to resolve any impasses thrown up
by strategic issues. It (or supplementary good practice guidance) might also
consider what is to be done in the event of such an impasse.
Are the policies in the NPPF sufficiently evidence-based?
13. One of the biggest untested assumptions in the Framework is referred to in
our paragraph 8, and relates to the willingness of communities to deliver the
amounts of growth the government wants to see, incentivised by Community
Infrastructure Levy, the New Homes Bonus and the new freedoms promised
by localism. We have seen plenty of examples of communities which are
willing to spend considerable sums of their own money to prevent
development, and we are not necessarily convinced that the new incentives
will lead to a sudden dramatic reversal of public opinion.
14. We also have a more general concern, which seems to underlie not just this
document, but much of the Government’s thinking on planning. This is their
perception of the impact that planning has, which we do not believe is
supported by any serious body of evidence. Whilst you would expect the
Society to regard the planning system as important, it is possible to overemphasise
its impact (and, in particular, to over-state any negative effects it
is claimed to have on the economy). A Parliamentary Select Committee was
set up in 2003, in response to claims by the CBI during scrutiny of the earlier
planning green paper, that the planning system was a major impediment to
business. (The CBI’s claims, made in oral evidence, were found to be
unsubstantiated, and the committee looking at the planning green paper
described them as based on “anecdote and prejudice.”) The Select
Committee’s conclusion was as follows:

“Claims that planning damages the nation’s competitiveness seem to have
been made without evidence. The evidence that we have received suggests
that businesses generally support the planning system and seek a number of
best local authorities already run their planning departments in proactive,
responsive ways and if the resources are put into place, such approaches
can be adopted by others.”

15. As part of that Select Committee’s work, they commissioned consultants
Roger Tym and partners to undertake a literature review. This concluded that
“There is no evidence that planning is a significant explanatory factor for the
UK’s low productivity compared to its main competitors.” That this is still the
case is supported by the fact that 86% of all planning applications decided in
2010/11 were approved, the great majority of them within the statutory time
periods. The issue of applications delayed for over a year, to which the
Government has recently devoted a good deal of attention, relates to a
fraction of 1% of all applications, and the reasons for those delays by no
means always lie at the door of the local planning authority. Whilst we are not
complacent about these figures, and are always keen to explore ways of
further improving them, we do not believe that they show a system in crisis,
fundamentally impeding national recovery, as is sometimes portrayed.

The Planning Officers Society
8 September 2011

CPRE DCLG #NPPF Select Committee Written Evidence

Written evidence from the Campaign to Protect Rural England


  1. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) believes that the current draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is not fit for purpose. We support the Government’s aims to promote localism and consolidate national planning policy. In our view, however, the draft NPPF is deeply flawed and puts ordinary, undesignated countryside at risk from inappropriate development by weakening existing policies.
  2. We believe the document needs substantial revisions. In making recommendations to the Government about the NPPF we propose that the Committee considers the following specific points:
  • The presumption in favour of sustainable development should be re-drafted to make clearer when planning permission can justifiably be refused. To provide such clarification the document should include a definition of sustainable development based on the five principles set out in the Government’s UK Sustainable Development Strategy.
  • The NPPF should recognise the importance of the countryside as a whole for its intrinsic value, and not just those areas that are nationally designated.
  • The existing ‘brownfield first’ policy should be retained so that land is used efficiently by ensuring previously developed land is used to meet development needs before greenfield sites.
  • The transport section should be revised to make it consistent with the core transport principle stated in paragraph 19 of the draft. It should recognise that addressing transport impacts is often critical in securing sustainable development rather than making them irrelevant unless shown to be ‘severe’.


3. CPRE welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). As a leading environmental charity, we have worked to promote and protect the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of rural England by encouraging the sustainable use of land and other natural resources since our formation in 1926. We are one of the country’s leading voluntary sector participants in the planning system, with branches in every English county and local groups in most current local authority districts.

A brief general assessment of the fitness for purpose of the draft Framework as a whole

  1. We believe that national planning policy is a critical element in ensuring sustainable use of land. CPRE supports the Government’s stated objectives of making national planning policy more localist, proportionate and user-friendly. We also recognise the need to promote sustainable economic development.  We feel strongly, however, that the draft policy runs contrary to a number of Government pledges on the environment and will not deliver development that is truly sustainable.
  2. Overall, we do not think that the consultation draft NPPF is fit for purpose as a statement of national planning policy. There are a number of fundamental issues which the Government needs to address before this is achieved.  We set out the detail of these concerns in the rest of this submission.

Does the NPPF give sufficient guidance to local planning authorities, the Planning Inspectorate and others, including investors and developers, while at the same time giving local communities sufficient power over planning decisions?

  1. We are concerned that the draft NPPF does not give sufficient guidance to local planning authorities to ensure that future development will be truly sustainable. While we recognise the need for national planning policy to be consolidated, we are concerned that the Government’s aspirations for brevity mean that important details, that would help guide local planning authorities in their policy and decision-making, have been lost.
  2. An illustration of this is that the presumption in favour of sustainable development is not linked to explicit criteria on how development might be shown to be either sustainable or unsustainable. The introduction of standards alongside the presumption was promised in the Conservative Green Paper Open Source Planning. Currently, Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1) explains sustainable development principles, and how they can be planned for and achieved, in a clear and succinct manner (over just 15 pages). By contrast the draft NPPF requires readers to read the document as a whole (over 50 pages) to divine what sustainable development constitutes in practice (draft NPPF paragraph 12).
  3. There is also a need for further guidance on transitional arrangements for the preparation of local plans, including in relation to the proposed ‘certificate of conformity’ (paragraph 26). Our understanding of the current legal situation (subject to the opinion of CPRE’s Standing Counsel) is that local plans are only required to have regard to (in distinction to being in general conformity with) national policy. Particularly for those plans produced after the NPPF was adopted, we feel that the reference to, and availability of, a ‘certificate of conformity’ could pressure local authorities into producing plans that go beyond what the law requires them to do, and is contrary to the goal of localism.

Are the ‘core planning principles’ clearly and appropriately expressed?

  1. CPRE welcomes aspects of the core planning principles expressed in paragraph 19, in particular those on local plans, mixed use development, transport, well-being and amenity, respectively. For the document to be a self-contained expression of the Government’s approach to sustainable development, however, CPRE recommends that the key principles of the 2005 UK Strategy should be reiterated at this point.  This could be achieved by integrating them with the core planning principles.
  2. Other draft core principles are also, we believe, likely to need alteration. In particular, the second principle on development should state clearly that only responsible, sustainable development that has benefited from a level of public involvement proportionate to the public interest in the application, and also provided that no relevant local or national policies are not compromised, should be approved.  Additionally, the intrinsic value of land, including all countryside, should also be recognised. Land should be used efficiently as well as effectively, and along with other non-renewable resources its use should be managed, and where appropriate restricted, through development planning.
  3. The principle under the sixth bullet point should be amended to ensure that, in making effective use of land, planning policies and decisions seeks to re-use land that has been previously developed.

Is the definition of ‘sustainable development’ contained in the document appropriate; and is the presumption in favour of sustainable development a balanced and workable approach? 

12. The current draft of the presumption is, in CPRE’s view, little more than a presumption in favour of development, with minimal or no regard as to whether the development is genuinely sustainable in environmental terms. There is no clear definition of sustainable development within the draft NPPF and readers are expected to read across the whole document to understand what it means in practice (see above). The Brundtland Commission definition of sustainable development is set out, as it already is in PPS1, but this is insufficient. We believe it is crucial, if the NPPF is intended to be the Government’s future definitive statement on planning and sustainable development, that it should reiterate the five core principles of the 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy..

13. We are also concerned that the presumption in favour, as presently drafted, could turn back the clock in planning policy terms to the late 1980s, where a presumption in favour of granting planning permission was set in Government policy.

14. In particular, we believe that there is a grave risk of developers resorting to the planning appeals process to a significantly greater degree than has been the case since the introduction of the plan-led system of development control in 1991. If this took place it would be the exact antithesis of localism and of the Minister’s desire for ‘fewer appeals to the Planning Inspectorate and more decided locally’ (House of Commons Hansard 17 May 2011). It would also contradict the Government’s stated desire for a fast, efficient and more certain planning system. The risk of the presumption leading to more appeals has been noted in the Government impact assessment for the NPPF, but it stated that ‘it is difficult to quantify the scale of this risk’.

15. The head of planning at British Land (a company which has openly supported the reform) has recently noted that in the 1980s, when there had previously been a policy presumption in favour of development, the number of appeals had risen to 30,000 a year (compared to around 16,500 appeals being submitted in 2010/11). He stated that ‘it (the NPPF as drafted) will often provide a basis for applicants to appeal because they believe it offers a route to the approvals they want’ (quoted at, article dated 6 September 2011).

16. From CPRE analysis of the Government’s development control statistics (see Annex, table 1) from the late 1980s, when the general presumption in favour of development was most recently in force, we have concluded that the proposed presumption would be likely to lead to a considerable increase in the number of appeals against refusals of planning permission. If the economy recovers as the Government intends, and no additional resources are provided to ensure comprehensive local plan coverage, a potential return to the 32,000 mark last seen in 1989/90 is a likely scenario. This would represent a near doubling of the number of appeals submitted in 2010/11.

17. We are also concerned that developers are likely to use the planning appeals system as a means to pressure local authorities into granting planning permission, even where an appeal is not taken through to a final decision. A particular characteristic of planning in the late 1980s was the high figure of appeals that were withdrawn (between 5 and 9 times more than in 2010/11). Alongside this it should be remembered that in the 1980s, as now, the vast majority of planning applications (at least 80% in each year) have been approved.

18. Not only would such an outcome frustrate the achievement of local objectives for development – the reverse of localism – it could also significantly add to the current cost of the appeals system (£29 million in the year 2009/10). There are also further costs for local authorities and community groups resulting from an increased need to respond to planning appeals, which are often likely to frustrate attempts to prepare an up-to-date plan. This is of particular concern given the fact that a majority of local authorities do not have a sound or adopted plan (as noted on pp.20-22 of the Government’s Impact Assessment which accompanies the draft NPPF).

19. We are not convinced that, in the short term at least, the Government’s proposed neighbourhood plans will plug the policy gap in order to prevent a greater resort to planning appeals. It is therefore vital from CPRE’s point of view that the presumption in favour of sustainable development is completely redrafted.  The Government should also give greater positive support, both financially and through the NPPF, for area-wide local planning.

20. The main issues that we believe need addressing are:

  • For the presumption to be clearly in favour of sustainable development, CPRE believes that there should be a requirement for developers to demonstrate that their proposal is genuinely sustainable, not merely that the proposal does not have an adverse impact on the policies in the NPPF.
  • The policy should recognise cases where a local authority has made significant progress towards adopting a plan, and that delays to planning decisions can often be caused primarily by the actions of developers rather than local authorities. The draft wording could be taken to suggest that a local authority would be generally required to grant permission unless a plan had actually been adopted, or even in cases where delay had been caused by developer intransigence.
  • It should be specific about why a plan might have been superseded, rather than using the term ‘out of date’ which is particularly likely to result in greater resort to appealing or a raft of litigation, not only in relation to individual applications but potentially also to the adoption of plans.
  • The requirement for decision makers to demonstrate that ‘the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole’ when refusing planning applications is at best unclear and at worst unreasonably onerous. Although the draft states that planning policies and decisions should be ‘compatible with, and where appropriate further’ the achievement of relevant statutory obligations, the policy would not in our view help with the implementation of many such obligations, for example on Environmental Impact Assessment. Instead, it should be made clear that only policies in the NPPF that are relevant to the application at hand should be weighed into any assessment. This would fit neatly with the existing planning law requirement to decide applications in accordance with the development plan and any material (ie. relevant) considerations.

21. A possible approach may be to reverse the presumption in relation to planning applications that, for example, are clear departures from an adopted plan; which cannot show community support; or which impinge on environmental constraints. As the Encyclopaedia of Planning Law & Practice points out, ‘a presumption in favour of the plan is irreconcilable with a general presumption in favour of development. It is, if anything, a presumption in favour of development that accords with the plan; and a presumption against development that does not’ (original emphasis). This may be an area where CPRE has common ground with the developer interests that strongly support the introduction of the proposed presumption. In a debate on the Guardian website on 31 August, the Chief Executive of the British Property Federation stated that ‘we absolutely agree’ with a CPRE posting that stated: ‘any presumption in favour of sustainable development has to be accompanied by an equally strong presumption against unsustainable development.’

Does the NPPF serve to integrate national planning policy across Government Departments?

22. We do not believe that the NPPF integrates national planning policy across Departments. The lack of clear definition of sustainable development, for example, undermines the achievement of the Government’s 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy.

23. CPRE estimates that the countryside outside designated areas covers at least half (52- 58%) of all England’s countryside. The draft NPPF does not refer to protecting the countryside ‘for the sake of its intrinsic character’ (as currently stated in Policy EC6.1 in Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth) or to strictly controlling development outside existing settlements (ibid., Policy EC6.2). CPRE believes that these policies need to be restored, otherwise planning protection would be weakened in the English countryside outside nationally designated areas. This appears to be at clear odds with the commitment made in the Government’s June 2011 White Paper The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature to maintain protection and enhancement of the natural environment as objectives for national planning policy, with the ‘natural environment’ encompassing all farm land and forests, or in other words all countryside.

24. We are also particularly interested in the impact of paragraph 13 of the draft NPPF, specifically that ‘significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth through the planning system’ and paragraph 14, which states that ‘All of these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole.’  These paragraphs change the meaning of sustainable development and, arguably, trump both the Brundtland definition, included in the NPPF, and the 2005 Strategy.

25. We are very concerned that these paragraphs may represent a fundamental shift in planning policy away from recognition of the need to protect the intrinsic value of the countryside to a position where value has to be justified on the grounds of evidence in each and every case.

26. Another notable sources of inconsistency between the NPPF and other recent Government policy documents can be found in the Treasury Plan for Growth, and the National Policy Statement EN-1 on overarching energy development published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Both of these documents refer to the benefits of using brownfield land before greenfield. It may also be relevant that the draft policy statement on gypsy and traveller development, issued in April 2011 and about a month before the publication of the Practitioner Advisory Group draft NPPF, includes the following points established in current planning policy but not the draft NPPF:

  • Previously developed land should be preferred to greenfield for new development.
  • Development in the countryside outside existing settlements should be strictly controlled.
  • There is a general presumption against inappropriate development in Green Belts.

27. We strongly welcome the fact that the NPPF core principle covering transport reflects PPS1 and seeks ‘to make the fullest use of public transport, walking and cycling, and focus significant development in locations which are or can be made sustainable’. This principle which reflects existing Department for Transport policy is, however, contradicted by the transport section which is considerably weaker. Not only is the principle heavily qualified within this section, including the key test to reduce carbon emissions, but it refers to ‘sustainable transport’, defined as ‘any means of transport with low impact on the environment, including walking and cycling, green or low emission vehicles, car sharing and public transport.’ We believe it should require local authorities to plan to reduce car dependency and promote alternative, sustainable, modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport.

28. Worse still, the transport section uniquely amongst the NPPF’s policy sections has a further test that goes even further than the presumption of sustainable development in enabling unsustainable development. Paragraph 86 states that ‘development should not be prevented or refused on transport grounds unless the residual impacts of development are severe.’ This would, for example, make it near impossible to use land use planning as a tool to reduce carbon emissions from transport. The emissions from individual unsustainable planning applications would always be a tiny proportion of national emissions and so could not be held to be ‘severe’. The Committee on Climate Change has stressed the importance of planning to reduce emissions in the longer term, something that would no longer be possible if the NPPF was approved in its current form.

29. CPRE has long promoted the strong relationship between a brownfield first approach, dense mixed use development, town centre first and reducing the need to travel. These ideas can be grouped together within the theories or slogans of Smart Growth or ‘towns of short trips’ („Stadt der kurzen Wege“), which are important in North American and German speaking countries respectively. A similar approach that fits well with economic and nudge theory is to focus on giving sustainable travel modes ‘comparative advantages’ over driving, through better planning that increases accessibility (such as by promoting walkable mixed use higher density developments) and creates quality public spaces not dominated by motor traffic.

Are the policies contained in the NPPF sufficiently evidence-based?

  1. CPRE believes that the Government has omitted to take into account a number of key areas of evidence necessary to underpin a sound NPPF. In particular, we do not believe that the Government’s claims that the planning system is currently a barrier to growth is sufficiently evidence-based. We are concerned that this claim underpins the development of the draft NPPF and the reforms more widely. Government statistics show that for at least a decade more than 8 in 10 planning applications are granted and the figure for major commercial applications, critical for economic growth, is higher at around 90%. As highlighted above we are concerned that the introduction of the presumption, as currently worded, would lead to greater uncertainty for developers and local authorities.
  2. In addition to our points above, a further consequence of the omission of a definition of sustainable development, or any reference to the 2005 Strategy, in the draft NPPF, is an apparent omission of a large body of evidence relevant to planning for sustainable development.
  3. For example, environmental capacity and limits can be seen to be particularly pressing issues in the South East and East of England. A major Government-sponsored study by UK Foresight, published in February 2010, noted the serious levels of water stress in most of the South East and much of the East of England1. This followed a further study by Entec for Defra in 2004 found that a major increase in the supply of housing would have a number of consequences ranging from increased mineral and water extraction to production of waste2.
  4. Studies carried out by Land Use Consultants for CPRE in 2007 show a similar picture of stress in many English regions in relation to other important indicators of environmental quality, such as visual and noise pollution. That is why we are able to support the reference to the protection of tranquillity in the draft NPPF, though on the basis of our research we believe the definition of ‘tranquillity’ should cover visual intrusion as well as noise pollution.
TABLE 1: NUMBERS OF PLANNING APPEALS IN 2010/11 COMPARED TO THE LATE 1980s (source: DOE, Development Control Statistics: England, 1995/96 and Planning Inspectorate, Statistical Report: England 2010/11)
Number of planning applications received (000s) Number of appeals received Number of appeals decided Number of appeals withdrawn Number of appeals allowed % of appeals allowed as proportion of those decided
536 19,856 15,613 2,533 6,208 39.8
598 22,482 18,474 3,173 6,955 37.6
681 28,659 21,061 4,257 7,734 36.7
627 32,281 26,481 4,627 8,852 33.4
530 26,692 26,393 3,907 8,871 33.6
483 16,549 15,838 526 5,194 32

1 UK Foresight, Land Use Futures: Making the most of land in the 21st century, Final Project Report February 2010, p.112. 2 Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Study into the Environmental Impacts of Increasing the Supply of Housing in the UK, Final Report by Entec, Hodkinson, and Eftec, April 2004.


  1. If the Government is serious about promoting genuinely sustainable development then the NPPF needs to advocate appropriate development that minimises its environmental impacts. We fear that the language in the draft about viability, that seeks to ensure that requirements placed on developers do not prevent ‘acceptable returns’ (paragraph 39) will lead to developers arguing that they should not be required to adhere to high environmental standards or deliver as much affordable housing as they might otherwise have been expected to.
  2. We are greatly concerned about the lack of any reference in the draft NPPF to a preference for the redevelopment of previously developed land before greenfield development, and the proposed new, more onerous requirements for local authorities to identify five years’ worth of developable land for new housing, with an additional allowance of 20%. The latter requirement is in addition to the draft NPPF discouraging the use of ‘windfall’ allowances in local plan site allocations (i.e. for brownfield sites which are not allocated in a plan but subsequently become available for development).
  3. Moreover, CPRE does not think that an additional 20% requirement is justified, either in terms of its effect on adopted local plans or in terms of providing more housing. The introduction of the requirement is likely to force local authorities into conducting more controversial and expensive consultation exercises on housing land supply than under present requirements; and a number of councils with an adopted plan would be required to revisit their housing policies in order to meet it, or be forced to approve applications that went against local policies.
  4. We are also concerned that the more land local authorities have to allocate, especially as it is proposed that in general they will not be allowed to take windfall sites into consideration, the greater pressure there will be to allocate greenfield and potentially Green Belt land for housing. Such allocations would, in many cases, also undermine aspirations for urban regeneration as developers are likely to ‘cherry pick’ greenfield sites as they are generally easier to development and more profitable.

CPRE September 2011

Two Paradigms of Planning – Spatial Planning and Ecosystems Approach #NPPF

Extract from a good piece by Carter and Scott in Government Gazette

Two paradigms that currently shape planning for the built and natural environment are spatial planning and the ecosystem approach respectively.  Spatial planning is often uncritically used as an overarching term for a panoply of planning approaches and applications yet, in theory, represents a transformation from traditional notions of planning driven by land use allocation and design emphasizing control and restraint, towards embracing more proactive and holistic visions involving multi-scalar and multi-sectoral perspectives to deliver positive social, economic and environmental outcomes.  This represents a major culture change in the art of planning and poses key challenges in integrating spatial policy between different sectors and breaking down departmental and organisational barriers.  The emphasis is as much on the networks and connectivity between places and people as on the places themselves.  For example, the concept and application of green infrastructure offers potential for a multi-scalar and multi-sectoral approach to planning.

The ecosystem approach, too, represents a fundamental culture change in the way we value, manage and economically account for environmental resources and ecosystem services.  It is defined by UNCBD (2011) as “a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way”.  The transformation involves a move away from species- and site-based conservation to integrated land and water management for the benefit of people and protecting environmental integrity. This requires both scientific/technical and institutional/local knowledge and capacity.  Significantly, much of the ecosystem approach discourse has remarkable similarities with the rhetoric in spatial planning: the importance of holism, long-termism, complexity, thresholds, adaptive management, social inclusion and social learning.  Yet there have been limited attempts to fuse these together.

The Spatial Planning approach was best summed up in PPS12.  Ironically the NPPF is very much a step back from spatial planning.  The Natural Environment White Paper and the National Ecosystems Assessment the Ecosystems approach.  In the CAS Alternative draft we have attempted to bring them together.