Useful Debates the #NPPF has forced us to have

As today is the last full day of the NPPF consultation it is useful to reflect on how it has at the very least led to a vigorous debate about planning, with a few perhaps unexpected side effects.

1) What do we mean by sustainable development; so we may well get an updated definition and hopefully a reboot in thinking on the issue between Defra and DCLG.

2) A revived debate on food security; Policy on this hasnt been updated since PPS7 despite the massive spike in food prices since 2008.  Concerns here might be overblown but it is a good time for a cross whitehall review.

3) A debate on who should benefit from uplifts in land value; Land taxation is back on the agenda after a hiatus of over 40 years. That can only be a good thing.

4) A revival in Smart Growth Ideas; We perhaps have taken some of these for granted but their absence has forced us to reassert them and look in a way we havent before in the UK about the economics of Smart Growth;

5) An Assessment of How far UK Zero Carbon Standards are working in comparison with other schemes; The NPPF may have stripped away local standards but the standards being aimed for (such as CSH) were working very badly anyway.  Now at last we are having a real debate about this and the relative roles of planning and building control.

6) A greater awareness of landscape scale thinking in planning;The town-county split in planning since 1947, is recognised now as rather out of date and now landscape and ecosystem revival on a landscape scale is very much the thing.

7) Some joined up thinking between DEFRA and DCLG; The NPPF read like it came from a different country let alone a different government from the Natural Environment White Paper and the National Ecosystem assessment.    Now at least they are talking.

8 ) Plan Updating Has to be a National Priority; There now seems to be universal acknowledgement of this.

9) A National Debate about the need for housing; again a good thing, but not just that but how they might be built when mortgage finance is squeezed and how we might provide affordable housing when private housebuilding is and public spending are both cut.

10) A Debate on Housing Standards; room sizes and so on.

Guardian Previews DCLG #NPPF Select Committee Monday


A showdown between the conservation lobby and the construction industry will take place on Monday afternoon in parliament, as a committee of MPs questions experts on whether the government’s proposals for sweeping reforms to planning regulations should go ahead.

The fight pits the chancellor, George Osborne, and the local governmentsecretary, Eric Pickles, against countryside campaigners and conservationists. At issue is whether the regulations should be loosened so that house-builders, retailers, industries and other commercial concerns should be allowed greater access to prime land, including the green belt.

Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, will give evidence to thecommunities and local government select committee. The Home Builders Federation and the British Property Federation will also appear, making the case that the UK needs urgently to invest in vital infrastructure such as homes and industry.

Jenkins is expected to argue that the proposed reforms risk a commercial free-for-all in which decades of protection for the countryside will be swept aside in favour of large building projects.

Neil Sinden, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The government aspires to be the greenest government ever, but it will not achieve this admirable ambition with a ‘business as usual’ approach to economic growth. Planning reform gives an early opportunity for improvement. [The government] shouldintroduce a radically revised national planning policy framework with strong safeguards for nature and the landscape.”

Obtaining planning permission for any development – from housing to wind farms, waste treatment plants or out-of-town supermarkets – is usually difficult and costly, as local authorities have strong powers of veto.

Developers argue that this is hampering growth prospects, pointing to the fact that house-building rates are far lower than they need to be to offer affordable housing to those in need.

Reforms to the complex planning system were one of the key promises made by Osborne on becoming chancellor.

He announced that under streamlined rules there would be a presumption in favour of “sustainable development”, meaning that local authorities should look for reasons to go ahead with new projects on sites that previously might have been protected.

This will, ministers have made clear, include considering building on land that is currently zoned as green belt (sic), a move that has angered many green campaigners.

But other groups have supported greater freedom in planning. William Worsley, president of the Country Land and Business Association, 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.”

One of the problems is that the terms under which local authorities should change their rules have been only very vaguely defined, and opponents of the plans say it is unclear what sorts of development would be termed “sustainable”. Countryside campaigners fear that the new presumption will give councils the right to ride roughshod over environmental protections.

Joan Walley, a Labour MP and chair of parliament’s environmental audit committee, which is also examining the proposals, called on the government to bring forward more detail: “If the new planning framework protects our green belt and countryside, as the government claims, then there should be no problem in defining sustainable development more clearly to avoid misinterpretation.”

Another odd aspect of the plans is that, according to the UK’s wind industry association, Renewable UK, the plans could hamper some forms of development while encouraging others. Onshore wind farms would face increased hurdles under the proposals, while developments such as out-of-town shopping centres would be made easier.

In this debate, the role of the National Trust will be central. As one of the UK’s biggest member organisations, it commands respect across the political spectrum, and its leading figures – Jenkins and Fiona Reynolds, director-general – have shown a willingness to stand up to ministers and other vested interests.

At the front of ministers’ minds will be the forest sell-off debacle earlier this year, which saw one of the first defeats of a major coalition government policy.

The proposal by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to parcel out public forests, some to be sold to the highest bidder and others to be looked after by charities, was met with widespread opposition, from country grandees to the Socialist Workers party.

Ministers will also be well aware that the same charities that are now voicing concerns over the planning regulation proposals were instrumental in forcing the rethink on the forestry proposals, which resulted in the environment minister, Caroline Spelman, making a humiliating climbdown.

Although the National Trust did not adopt an official position on the forestry sell-off, it canvassed its members and provided a forum for them to make their views known. Crucially, the fact that the National Trust – one of the biggest owners and managers of woodland for public access in the UK today – was not consulted in any way before the government announced its proposals contributed to the U-turn, because it was perceived that in failing to gather this kind of support, the government had acted hastily and without sound advice.

The government is anxious not to be seen to make the same mistake this time, but it may be too late. The National Trust remains unconvinced by the reassurances given so far that the new planning laws will not mean a free-for-all. If ministers press ahead with their plans without concessions, they risk once again the wrath of middle England.

Planning Officers Society Final #NPPF Response

Press Release

POS welcomes a shorter and more focused NPPF and supports the broad thrust of the document. The Society is of the view, however, that the document needs fine-tuning and greater clarity. The Society is convinced that as currently drafted the NPPF will slow down and not speed up the planning system.

Mike Kiely, Junior Vice President told Under Secretary of State Bob Neill “We are ready to help with the task of fine-tuning the NPPF. There is too much at stake to get this wrong”.

In submitting the Society’s final response Mike Holmes, President, said “we recognise at various points in the submission, it will normally be the responsibility of the Society and other key stakeholders to produce any supplementary good practice guidance required. However, we have at a few points thought it appropriate to seek clarification of what particular parts of the Framework means. In a number of cases, we have suggested alternative wording, or at least the general thrust of that wording. More generally, we would be happy to work constructively with DCLG in developing alternative wording in relation to any of the points we have made.”

Download the final submitted response

Read more about the Society’s views on the NPPF 

Consultation Draft National Planning Policy Framework Response by the Planning Officers Society


1. The Planning Officers Society represents the most senior professionals and managers of planning functions in the English local authorities. We set out to:

  • Act as an advocate and promoter of Local Government planning;
  • Assist and advise the Government and the Local Government Association on planning matters and related issues;
  • Act as a centre of excellence, undertake research and promote best practice in planning matters;
  • Promote all aspects of the built and green environment by working closely with other organisations and professions.


  1.  The Society’s aim is to ensure that planning makes a major contribution to achieving sustainable developments, from national to local level, in ways which are fair and equitable and achieve the social, economic and environmental aspirations of all sectors of the community.
  2.  In our response we have tried as far as possible to fit our comments to the list of questions in the consultation document. Numbers given in brackets are the paragraph numbers of the Framework. As we recognise at various points in the submission, it will normally be the responsibility of the Society and other key stakeholders to produce any supplementary good practice guidance required. However, we have at a few points thought it appropriate to seek clarification of what particular parts of the Framework mean. In a number of cases, we have suggested alternative wording, or at least the general thrust of that wording. More generally, we would be happy to work constructively with DCLG in developing alternative wording in relation to any of the points we have made.


1a, 1b Delivering sustainable development

4. Presumption in favour: Whilst we understand and generally support the Government’s wish to promote growth and development, we feel that the expectation

(14) that development will be approved unless its adverse impacts “would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies (in the Framework) taken as a whole”: (a) tips the scales too far in favour of a blanket and uncritical approval of development; (b) sits uneasily with the principles of localism and (c) would be a near-impossible test to apply in practice, in relation to a fifty-two page policy document, inevitably containing policies that would point towards different conclusions. As currently worded, this test would apply to all development, however minor. Whilst there may be perfectly valid local reasons for refusing a particular development, putting the onus on the local planning authority to prove that something as minor as an unsuitable house extension or change of use undermines national policy seems to us an unduly onerous test. We believe that the Government’s objective could and should be retained, but could be expressed in a more proportionate and nuanced way, that allows authorities to have some regard to legitimate local considerations, particularly in relation to less major developments. Last, but by no means least, our understanding is that Section 70(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act (requiring local planning authorities to have regard to “other material considerations”) will continue to apply, and that something like that, which is enshrined in legislation, cannot be overridden by policy. This last point also applies to the following paragraph, about where a plan is silent on a particular matter.


5. When the plan is silent: The apparent expectation (14) that local authorities should approve all development on which their plan is silent is likely to have unintended consequences. It may encourage authorities to try and draft plans which anticipate every eventuality in detail, which would work against the goal of having more rapidly-produced and shorter plans. In relation to this, (20) suggests rather too narrow a role for supplementary planning documents which, when creatively used, have proved to be helpful to both planning authorities and the development industry.

6. Sustainability: (10) 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 major 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, and the relative weighting that one attaches to these could lead to very differing views on sustainability. It should be self-evident that this weighting will be different in, say, a National Park, compared to 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 rival interpretations. Note that this is not intended to involve the introduction of a plethora of local policies, merely to make it clearer how national policy applies 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 in the local plan itself, and encouraged them to address the matter. In relation to this, some authorities may already have given some thought to the local dimensions of sustainability in advance of their local plans, through corporate policy documents. There should be scope for some weight to be attached to these in appropriate cases, given that sustainability is not exclusively a planning matter. The Society will be happy to help prepare good practice guidance on these matters. Not least, such an approach would be in accord with the Government’s policy of localism. As it stands, references to sustainability elsewhere in the Framework 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. As this is the most commonly-applied definition, it would make more sense to set this out in the NPPF as the national definition and also make it clear that this will be applied at the local level, taking into account local circumstances. All other considerations aside, there is a vital interdependence between the three sustainability criteria, with social and environmental conditions needing to be improved if we are to attract and retain economic investment.

7. Having gone some way (though in our view, not far enough) towards defining sustainable development in paragraph (10), the whole matter is thrown back into confusion by paragraph (12), which says that sustainability is defined by the document as a whole. Is a definition running to 52 pages really a helpful basis for understanding the concept? The second bullet point in paragraph (19) refers to “the key sustainable development principles set out in this framework”. To what is it referring? The specific principles set out in paragraph (10), or the “everything in the framework” approach of paragraph (12)?

8. At the same time, the Framework might usefully make more clear the alignment between the social and 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.

9. Longer-term requirements: We would welcome clarification of what the Framework means (at 24) by plans “taking account of longer-term requirements”. What sorts of longer-term requirements? How long-term? Is it talking about plans making specific allocations of land beyond the 15-year time horizon? Inspectors will no doubt want to test plans against this criterion and planning authorities need to know more clearly what the nature of the test will be.

10. Localism and the core planning principles: (19) The core planning principles appear to contain no reference whatsoever to localism, the discretion this gives to local communities and the demarcation between local and national spheres of interest. This is surely sufficiently important to warrant some reference as a national planning principle?


2a Plan-making

11. Certificate of conformity: We would like to explore the mechanics and implications of the provision (26) for local authorities to seek a certificate of conformity with the Framework. Our understanding is as follows. Where the Framework includes a new requirement as to the content of plans, this would be something for the planning authority to take into account when it next came to review its plan – it would not render a plan previously found sound suddenly unsound. Where the Framework introduces a new policy requirement, authorities making a decision relating to it would have to have regard both to their plan and to the new policy requirement. Again, an existing sound plan would not suddenly become redundant. Is this also your understanding?

12. We have compiled a list of the criteria in the framework a plan would apparently have to meet to comply (we think it comes to about 88 items) and, depending upon how strictly these criteria are applied, our concern is that few if any current core strategies would meet them all. How would the certification process work? Would it simply say “Yes, you are sound” or “no, you are unsound”? This would be extremely unhelpful, casting doubt (possibly unnecessarily) on every aspect of the plan. Few, if any, local authorities might wish to apply for a certificate if this were the process. Or would it be specific about those aspects of the Framework with which it does not conform, allowing the rest of the plan to continue to function? This latter would clearly be far more helpful, albeit more resource-intensive for whoever does the evaluation. We also need to confirm that a certificate of conformity is an option for the local authority, not a requirement, and seek your guidance on what the status would be of a plan which either did not have a certificate of conformity, or which had had one refused.

13. One thing we ought to try and avoid is the temptation for authorities to abandon adopted core strategies, or those on which work is well advanced, and go back to square one with a new plan. This would lead to a considerable hiatus in plan-making, which would in turn discourage the development the Government is keen to see taking place. It would be far better to set out some transitional arrangements, to ensure that the work done so far on plan-making is not lost.

14. Long-term vision for the area: (19). Authorities need a clear steer on the content of these visions, since so many of them end up being motherhood statements that no one could possibly argue with – “we want a prosperous economy, an attractive environment, etc.” – matters that have no regard to the real, hard choices that a plan has to make. The Framework should steer planning authorities to focus their vision on these real choices.

15. Development Plan documents: We welcome the flexibility (21) for local authorities to decide how many development plan documents are appropriate for their area, rather than having a “one-size-fits–all” limit of one document per authority.

16. Financial burdens on development: We would welcome clarification of the statement (at 21) that supplementary planning documents should not add to financial burdens on development. What does this say about Infrastructure Delivery Plans and the Community Infrastructure Levy?

17. Definition of infrastructure: The definition of infrastructure (at 31) seems narrower than that used for Community Infrastructure Levy. We believe it would be helpful for government policy to operate to a consistent definition (possibly that used for CIL). Failing that, the addition of a simple catch-all “and other infrastructure” at the end of the list of specific items might address the problem in this case. It might also be appropriate somewhere in the document for there to be a recognition of the positive role Section 106 and planning conditions can play in delivering essential infrastructure.

18. Higher level policy: “Assessments…should not repeat the assessment of higher level policy”. Which higher-level policy? (36). Is this a reference purely to national policy or, if not, to what?

19. Funding of infrastructure: One interpretation of the statement (at 41) that “local planning authorities should facilitate development throughout the economic cycle” is that infrastructure contribution requirements should be set at a level that can be sustained even at the very bottom of the economic cycle. This would seriously restrict the contribution that CIL could make to meeting infrastructure needs. Is this the intention? If not, clarification of what this statement means in practice would be helpful.

20. Conformity and precedence of plans: There is potential conflict (or, at least, scope for confusion) between paragraph (50) (“Neighbourhood plans, therefore, must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan…”) and paragraph (51) (“When a neighbourhood plan is made, the policies it contains take precedence over existing policies in the local plan for that neighbourhood…”). When authorities had to produce a separate core strategy, the distinction between strategic and non-strategic was rather clearer, but this would not apply to a single local plan document. This might be clarified by placing a requirement on the local planning authority to identify in their local plan those policies which are strategic, and to which the neighbourhood plan should comply, and (by exclusion) those which the neighbourhood plan may, if it sees fit, override.

21. Spatial planning: We were unable to find a clear commitment in the Framework to a planning system that was spatial, rather than narrowly concerned with land use. This may not be the Government’s intention but, if the commitment to spatial planning remains, we would like to see it made clearer, including a reference to tying plans in with related programmes such as community strategies.


2c, 2d Joint working

  1. Duty to cooperate: Whilst we welcome the strengthening of the duty to cooperate that has emerged with the passage of the Localism Bill, we do not believe it has yet gone far enough to address adequately the gaps left by the abolition of regional strategy (44). We would therefore encourage you to underline the importance of the duty further, say in paragraphs 23 to 28. For our part, the Society would be happy to help prepare good practice guidance for local authorities in implementing the duty, by means which might include the preparation of a Strategic Infrastructure Assessment. This guidance might also set clearer expectations as to what constitutes a satisfactory level of cooperation. We also need to bear in mind that neighbouring authorities will inevitably be at different stages in their plan-making process. We need to avoid a situation where the lack of progress by local authority A becomes an excuse for delay in the plan-making process of authority B, or alternatively that authority B tries to use its plan to railroad authority A into a particular position. On a related issue, we have some concerns about the degree of importance that seems to be attached to the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships in strategic planning. Whilst they clearly are valuable in informing local authority decisions on strategic priorities, they are unelected and unaccountable bodies and, in our experience, very often lack the resources to undertake such a leading role.
  2. Collaboration and conflict resolution: 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 strategic issues will not be readily resolved, and a duty to cooperate does not imply a duty to agree. 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. Once again, the Society would be happy to help prepare good practice guidance on what is to be done in the event of such an impasse. Finally in this section, the duty to cooperate seems to apply only to public bodies, yet many of the key players (such as infrastructure providers) are in the private sector. Whilst we appreciate it may be difficult legally to impose a similar requirement on them, can anything further be done to help ensure their collaboration?


3a, 3b Decision taking

  1. Development management and enforcement: The development management section (53-70) contains no reference at all to enforcement. This is surely a sufficiently important part of the planning process to warrant some mention. In particular, we would suggest that it should acknowledge the fact that one of the responsibilities of the local planning authority is to decide whether it is expedient to enforce against a particular breach of the planning legislation. Enforcement often tends to be seen rather negatively as a reactive “bolt-on” to development management, rather than being a positive, pro-active part of ensuring that what gets permitted actually gets built. The NPPF does nothing to change this perception and is thus a missed opportunity.
  2. Development management: We welcome the principle enshrined in the first bullet point in (54). We believe that this positive approach is one that most planning


authorities now try to bring to development management and the Society would be pleased to help promote such practices, to make them universal. At the same time, we would submit that the refusal of development which is not sustainable is as important and legitimate a part of development management as is approving that which is good, and should be recognised as a fifth principle in para 54.  Paragraph

(54) might also reflect the principles of localism, with an additional paragraph along the lines of “These principles should be applied on the basis of delivering development that respects the vision and aspirations of the local community”

  1.  The Framework states (at 58) “The more issues considered at pre-application stage, the greater the benefits” – a statement which we support.  However, it then potentially undermines this stance by saying that “Consents relating to how a development is built or operated can be dealt with at a later stage” (same paragraph). All the experience with assessment methods such as the Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM shows that the earlier the issues involved are considered, the greater will be both the potential opportunity to secure improvements and the potential cost savings. A case could be made for pre-application engagement with the planning authority by developers to be at the very least strongly encouraged, if not made mandatory, and for the planning authority to have a duty to engage in it in a positive and timely manner.
  2.  The NPPF talks (64) about the use of Article 4 being limited to protecting local amenity or wellbeing. This might usefully be extended to include supporting economic development in line with adopted LDF policies.


4a, 4b Separate guidance

28. Good Practice Guidance: We understand and generally welcome the search for brevity in the Framework. However, PPSs and PPGs included quite a lot of useful policy that was used daily in decision-making. If they are not provided in some form there will be a policy vacuum and we are likely to see either the gradual and piecemeal re-introduction of these generic policies into individual development plans, or policy being built up through the emergence of a body of (potentially inconsistent) appeal decisions. This would be a retrograde step. This point should be borne in mind, particularly if there were pressure to reduce the length of the final Framework further. One way of addressing at least part of this issue would be to signpost areas where good practice guidance would be of value (we have identified a number in this response). We also need to establish a proper process for its production (e.g. working jointly and cross-sector, consulted with the community, with a method for self-accreditation and regular review) and guidance on its status. As we have indicated at various points in this submission, the Society would be happy to play an active role and engage with others, in the preparation of any such guidance.

29. Viability: (39 – 41) Whilst it is not a matter for the Framework itself, local authorities will need to develop a more sophisticated approach to establishing how the “acceptable returns” referred to in paragraph (39) are to be evaluated. More particularly, authorities will need to know how they are to be anticipated in a plan which may span a number of economic cycles, with corresponding variations in what might constitute “acceptable”.

30. Tests of soundness: (48) In general we welcome the sentiment behind the additional test of soundness (that a plan should be “positively prepared”) even if the practicalities of testing it could prove challenging. In particular, the requirement for authorities to cover unmet requirements from their neighbouring authorities seems to suggest that the neighbour’s plan (and its unmet requirements) would need to have been identified beforehand. How will an authority deal with a situation where its emerging plan identifies needs which cannot be met within their own area, but where all its neighbours already have recently-adopted plans that take no account of them? This whole area of inter-authority cooperation is one that would benefit from some complementary good practice guidance and the Society would be happy to assist in its preparation.

31. As to what specific good practice guidance will be needed (other than the specific matters identified in this evidence) our suggestion is that, once we have seen the Framework in its final form, the Government and other key stakeholders get together to agree what else is needed, what the priorities are and a demarcation of responsibilities for providing it.


5a, 5b Business and economic development

32. Employment land: There is a potential conflict between paragraph (24), which seems to encourage the making of long-term designations of land and (75), which seems to discourage it in the case of employment land. All other considerations aside, infrastructure providers welcome the certainty of firm designations of land which give them the confidence to invest. Local supplies of employment land can be vital to the development of small- and medium-sized businesses, and in providing local (and sustainably-accessed) employment. In many cases they are already under pressure from other, higher-value, land uses, and the weakening of their protection in the NPPF seems likely to exacerbate this trend. What we think paragraph 75 is (or should be) saying is that local authorities should not slavishly continue to protect historic allocations of employment land in situations where there is no evidence of it ever being taken up, but where there is evidence of a demand for some other use of it which would be appropriate.

5c Market signals

  1. Market signals and long-term planning: (19) Whilst it would clearly be inappropriate for a plan wilfully to ignore market signals, one of the responsibilities of the planning system is to look beyond the immediate present. A fifteen-year plan will span a number of economic cycles. It may therefore be appropriate to qualify the third bullet point in (19) to say “…to take into account local circumstances and market signals…particularly where these are indicative of longer-term issues for the local community”.
  2.  The fourth bullet point in (19) is not clear as to its intention.


6a, 6b Town centre policies

35. A policy of concentrating employment uses as far as possible in the town centre will have the advantage of underpinning the retail offer and supporting public transport.

7a, 7b Transport policies

36. Transport: The objectives of transport policy (84) miss the social objective of transport policy, of giving people access to essential services. A policy of “encouraging sustainable transport methods where practical” feels a very weak policy steer – “aimed for” might be a better form of words.

8a, 8b Communications infrastructure

37. Local authorities should be encouraged to be more pro-active in working with infrastructure providers to identify and address communications blackspots. Do the local authority have any responsibility for assessing the self-certification, or are they always expected to accept it at face value? Is the reference in (98) to an international commission referring to the ICNIRP?

9a, 9b Minerals

38. Minerals planning: (21, 32 and 100-106). Our specialist minerals planning colleagues will be commenting separately on this part of the Framework. Neverthess there are some critical points that need stressing. It would be useful if policy points specific to the broad mineral classes: construction (including aggregates), industrial and energy minerals were separated. They are muddled together at the moment. With regard to aggregates, the NPPF needs to confirm the managed aggregate supply system (MASS) and the principles for its operation. The application of the mineral supply hierarchy of recycled materials and marine-dredged aggregate before primary extraction is an important principle that should be carried over from MPS1. This section refers throughout to “local planning authorities”. In two-tier local government areas, the local planning authority (for most purposes) and the minerals planning authority are not one and the same. Use of the term “minerals planning authority” in this section may help avoid confusion. Moreover, the addition of the sentence “Similarly mineral planning and waste planning authorities should produce minerals and waste plans” after the first sentence in (21) would clarify the components of the development plan.

10a, 10b Housing

  1. Housing requirements: The housing requirements section (28) appears to be internally contradictory. On the one hand it talks of the plan (though the SHMA) catering for the needs of the “local population”. In the very next line, it talks of the plan also having regard to 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 guidance on the subject. 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 on the duty to cooperate, to come up with major proposals on the scale of new or expanded towns, if these are 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) demand far exceeds anything that, with the best will in the world, could reasonably be delivered.
  2.  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 to speak of meeting affordable housing need as being what authorities should aspire to, subject to local circumstances.
  3.  The Society strongly supports the reference in (112) to allowing the inclusion of an element of market housing on rural exception sites.
  4.  The final bullet point on page 30 (109) refers to “the rolling 5-year supply”.  It is not at all clear what is meant by this in the context, since exclusion of windfalls from the 10 year supply will automatically exclude them from the 5-year supply.  Moreover, the reference to a rolling supply does not appear in PPS3, so if this is new policy it should be made clear as to its purpose. The very idea of a five-year supply is in our view questionable since, in some areas, developers simply will not come forward with applications on designated sites, leaving the local authority without a five-year supply and vulnerable to appeals on demonstrably less suitable sites.
  5. Housing provision: The practitioners’ group draft Framework included a requirement for planning authorities to make provision for an extra 20% above its housing allocation, to provide “choice and competition”. This was over and above the additional provision that would come from windfall sites, which local authorities were not allowed to take into account in their calculations, and which for many authorities has historically represented a large proportion of their provision. The current draft (at 109) compounds this by changing the policy to at least 20%. This seemed to many of our members to be less a question of providing choice, and more a means of increasing authorities’ housing allocations by stealth. It also raises questions about how one applies an at least policy, and how it differs from the straightforward 20% extra requirement, set out in the practitioners’ group draft, given that there is already general encouragement elsewhere in the Framework for levels of development to exceed guidelines. However, DCLG has subsequently given us a different interpretation of this part of the Framework. Our understanding is now that this is less about identifying more sites than evidence of housing need would require, and more about putting a contingency in place, in the event that part of the identified allocation fails to come forward. Of course, assessments of land supply already take into account the likelihood of some allocated and/or granted permission not actually being developed. Nevertheless we have set out below our current understanding of this part of the Framework (109) which, if correct, may be a less ambiguous way of wording it:


…local planning authorities should:…

  • Use an evidence base…etc;
  • identify and maintain a rolling supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years worth of housing against their housing requirements;
  • identify a supply of specific, developable sites or broad locations for growth for years 6-10 and, where possible, for years 11-15;
  • recognising that sites do not invariably come forward as planned, part of the provision for years 6-10 should be identified as being capable of being brought forward into the first five-year tranche, in the event that part of that tranche proves to be undeliverable. This portion should be equivalent to at least 20% of the planned provision for years 1-5;…etc. 


44. More generally, there seems to be an unwritten assumption that planning represents a foolproof tap for turning housing supply on and off. It ignores the fact that, in some parts of the country, local authorities have already granted consents amounting to 20% above identified needs. If housing is not being delivered in these areas, the problem does not lie at the door of the planning authority. In addition to considering past trends and forecast need based partly on those past trends, housing supply needs also to focus on the deliverability of different levels of housing and the sustainability of continuing past trends (for example, will a particular continued level of housing growth be compatible with forecasts of employment growth or the realistic capacity of the infrastructure?) Planning for forecast need, irrespective of its deliverability or sustainability, could lead to the allocation of far more land than can actually be developed, with the attendant risks of sporadic development or blight. The government needs to look holistically at the factors that affect the deliverability of development, and consider the range of policy instruments at its disposal to address them all.

11a, 11b Planning for schools

45. We welcome the Government’s decision not to pursue the idea of taking large parts of school-related development out of planning control.

12a, 12b Design

  1. Design: The section on design (114 – 123) seems to be devoted almost entirely to aesthetic matters. At least some reference should be made to its impact on sustainability. We would also have thought that design merited at least some reference in the core planning principles.
  2. Innovative design: The proposal (at 121) to encourage innovative design seems highly subjective and likely to give rise to endless disputes and appeals. We are not convinced that good innovative design (even if it can be satisfactorily defined and agreed upon by all concerned) should automatically be allowed to override other legitimate policy reasons (possibly including policy enshrined in the Framework itself) for example for not building housing in a particular location. We doubt whether this policy will be at all helpful in sorting out good from bad or mediocre design. This is surely an area where communities need to be trusted and the principle of localism applied?


13a, 13b Green Belt

  1.  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.
  2. One section (145) sets out a list of development ‘not inappropriate in Green Belt provided they preserve the openness of the Green Belt and do not conflict with the purposes of including land in Green Belt.’ The last bullet point refers to development brought forward under a Community Right to Build Order. This suggests to some of our members that such Orders will override Green Belt policy. However, another section (50) states that neighbourhood plans must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan. It would be useful to clarify precedence in this matter.
  3.  A number of our members believed that there was an inconsistency between the Framework policy for Green Belt and the draft PPS for traveller sites, leaving it unclear as to whether or not traveller sites can be allowed exceptionally within the Green Belt. They suggested the inclusion of a new paragraph between (138) and


(139) along the following lines:

“Once the general extent of a Green Belt has been approved it should only be altered in exceptional circumstances and only after the local authority has fully considered opportunities for development within the urban areas contained by and beyond the Green Belt”.

14a, 14b Climate change, flooding and coastal change

  1. For climate change, the NPPF focuses almost solely on use of energy/DE/ renewable energy and flood risk. We suggest adding one or two points to this section (148 – 162) and the related one on design.
  2.  Objectives: The Planning system should recognise the cross-cutting nature of climate change impacts on  areas such as biodiversity, open space provision, water use, physical infrastructure, transport, use of materials (embedded energy), and health and well-being.
  3.  It should recognise the importance of good design in mitigating and adapting to climate change – not just location and layout. For climate change adaptation, it should not just focus on flood risk. It should mention heat island effect, especially in urban areas, and include in the objectives measures for “cooling” – both for buildings and also for the public realm. To support these points, in the Design section, it should state that local planning authorities should ensure that development takes into account sustainable design and construction. In paragraph (151) reference is made to “well-designed buildings” which may nonetheless be incompatible with an existing townscape. In our submission, a building which is well-designed would by definition not cause harm to its surroundings.
  4.  The climate change section should also make reference to the need for local authorities to have policies in place to enable Allowable Solutions requirements to be dedicated to locally defined projects. As we understand the recommendations of the Zero Carbon Hub, Allowable Solutions are likely to be required for all housing developments to achieve zero carbon after 2016, and for all commercial development after 2019. Zero carbon will not necessarily be achievable within the building fabric or the site so off-site solutions will be required. If authorities do not have their own AS policies it is most probable that developers will pay the necessary AS monies into a third party fund which may not work to the benefit of the local area. AS will be payable in addition to CIL.


14c, 14d Renewable energy

55. No comments.

14e, 14f Renewable and low carbon energy

56. No comments.

4g, 14h Flooding and coastal change

57. No comments.

15a, 15b Natural and local environment

58. It may help reassure concerned parties if the Framework were to include at (167) reference to valuing the open countryside, even where undesignated, for its contribution to food production, opportunities for leisure and tourism and for its own sake.

16a, 16b Historic environment

59. We are concerned that the “presumption in favour of the conservation of designated heritage assets” in PPS5 (policy 9.1) appears to have been abandoned, or at least weakened. Heritage assets are a non-renewable resource – one which has not just environmental, but also social and economic significance (witness the importance of the tourism industry, much of which is built around heritage assets, to the national economy). Far from being a planning burden, heritage assets can become an instrument for economic recovery. During a previous recession, U.S. President Reagan introduced financial incentives for the restoration of historic buildings as a means of kick-starting the construction industry, and their scheme has remained in place ever since.  The historic environment is also another area where good practice guidance will be needed to complement the Framework.

17a Impact assessment

60. We have a general concern, relating to the perception of the impact that planning has. Whilst you would expect the Society to regard the planning system as important, it is possible to over-emphasise its impact (and, in particular, 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 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 changes in implementation, which do not necessarily require legislation. The 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.”

61. As part of their work, the Committee commissioned 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.”

Other detailed points

62. Waste policy framework: We look forward (7) to a separate opportunity to comment on the waste policy framework when it emerges. The footnote to paragraph 7 says “the Waste Planning Policy Statement will remain in place until the National Waste Management Plan is published”. Should this not read “…until it is adopted”? Otherwise, surely we risk a policy hiatus? Nevertheless, we are disappointed that waste has been separated from the NPPF. We have always advocated the close association of waste development with the planning of energy, minerals and other infrastructure. Placing waste planning in another document seems a retrograde step. Furthermore, there are many parts of PPS10, such as the locational requirements of waste facilities, including the Green Belt issue, as well as the need for Technical Advisory Bodies, which could easily be transposed into the NPPF.

63. Presentation: It would be useful for the Framework to include a specific list of the Government guidance which it supersedes. This currently appears in the consultation document but not in the framework itself. It would also be useful for the final version to have an index. Even with a document as relatively concise as this one, it can sometimes be time-consuming to track down what it has to say in relation to a particular topic.

64. Previously-developed land: We could find no reference to the importance (or otherwise) of bringing previously developed land (PDL) back into use. Whilst we are not arguing for a return to previous policies, of PDL first or targets, we believe some acknowledgement of its importance in minimising the loss of Greenfield land would be appropriate. (In this connection, CIL creates a possibly unintended incentive for authorities to favour Greenfield development over the redevelopment of existing outworn properties).

65. Regeneration: The Framework seems to equate development with new growth, and little or no reference appears to be made to regeneration. In many parts of the country regeneration will be no less important than new growth and the Framework should give some acknowledgement of this.

66. Countryside: There is little or no reference in the framework to the countryside. This, along with the removal of residential density targets and the lack of a policy on previously-developed land, has given rise to concerns that non-designated countryside is generally being seen as fair game for development.

67. Marine planning: Some of our coastal authority colleagues felt the Framework ought to recognise the relationship and links between land and terrestrial planning and the emerging importance of Marine Management Plans in coastal development and strategic planning in areas such as renewable energy. By way of an example, the promotion of offshore renewables has ‘back office’ implications for the land-based planning system by way of cable route landfalls; maintenance facilities onshore transformer stations and links to the national grid.

68. Members have raised concerns with us about current Local Plan policies which are, in effect, a local application of principles set out in PPSs. One example we have been quoted was in relation to a local policy on the functional and financial tests for agricultural workers’ dwellings, which was underpinned by PPS7. Up to now, the local policy has been able to draw upon the additional authority of that PPS. Inevitably, the NPPF will not address the issues in the same level of detail they got in the PPS. With the demise of the PPS, our members’ concern is that applicants and appellants will say that the local policy is no more than a re-statement of the PPS, which no longer exists and, given that the NPPF is silent on the matter, the local policy does not comply with national guidance and can be disregarded. In such circumstances, the options open to planning authorities might include:

incorporating the “lost” PPS policies into their emerging core strategies;

  • capturing them as SPD; or
  •  replacing “non-compliant” core strategies. None of these could be done immediately, or at no cost (something which does not appear to be covered in the Impact Assessment). The Government should consider possible transitional arrangements that would at least give authorities time to respond to the new situation without a policy vacuum emerging.

69. Consideration should be given to including a glossary of terms used in the Framework and their meaning, to avoid time-wasting repeated debates about definitions. To take just one example, what constitutes a ‘rural worker’ (113)?

For further information, please contact: Stuart Hylton Head of Strategic Planning and Transport Berkshire authorities’ Joint Strategic Planning Unit

T: 01628 796749 (to 28 October 2011)  E: (to 28th) or

Mike Holmes President, Planning Officers Society 01202 451315 

Prince William backs Campaign to Protect Open Spaces of Group Opposed to #NPPF = Telegraph


The 29-year-old Duke of Cambridge will urge families to defend the green, open spaces they most cherish in a film to be broadcast on Tuesday, the day after the deadline for submissions on the Coalition’s new guidelines.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which introduces a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, has been strongly opposed by environmental groups and heritage organisations led by the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Prince William’s video has been made for the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge, which aims to give permanent protection to a diverse range of 2,012 recreational spaces by the end of next year.

In it, he asks viewers to visit the challenge’s website and vote for a piece of local coastline, field, park or woodland they most want to save.

The winning candidates will be given a protected status as “Queen Elizabeth II fields” to commemorate the monarch’s diamond jubilee next year.

Royal aides have disclosed that the Prince is hoping the sites will then become a focus for the jubilee celebrations in June, according to reports.

The QEII Challenge was the brainchild of Fields in Trust (Fit), a charity for which the Queen is patron and the Duke of Edinburgh is president.

Its executives are among those who have voiced strong opposition to the Government’s radical planning reforms, accusing the Coalition of failing to protect playing fields from developers.

In a seven-page document, it says: “The NPPF disadvantages outdoor open space and facilities for sport, play and recreation. As a result there is a danger that open space, including playing fields, will be in greater danger from development without adequate replacement or compensation.”

Ministers will this week be sifting through reams of responses to its draft framework following the end of a three-month consultation.

Among those who have launched a last-ditch attempt to alter the guidelines are the Town and Country Planning Association which said the new rules do not require local authorities to replace prime agricultural land that could be lost to building developments and future sea level rises.

Larger than Local isn’t Easy #NPPF

The success or failure of the ‘post regional planning’ era will depend on the extent to which housing shortfalls in some districts can be met by additional housing in others.

That is because some districts will have strong environmental constraints that means it will be hard to meet their full housing needs, whilst others will have strong policy constraints which under localism they will treat as ‘inviolate’  and be supported by national policy in doing so – the classic example is Green Belt.

The example of Tunbridge Wells this week is a good example, but first some background.

Under the NPPF all local authorities are supposed to assess objective housing needs – through strategic housing market assessments.  They should meet that need in full and if they cant then under the ‘duty to cooperate’ adjoining authorities are required to see if they can.  If they dont then their own plans can be found unsound.

Things are made more complicated by the fact that these housing assessments are rarely made an a per authority basis but by ‘housing market areas’  typically equivalent to travel to work areas.  They should have at least 70% of trips to work contained within the area.  This works well for areas with large free-standing towns which act as sub-regional centres – such as Salisbury, also to a lesser so where there are numerous small town with interesting commuter patterns. e.g. north Devon and the High Weald; but is harder when there are numerous overlapping markets with travel to work dominated by the capital (e.g. South Herts and West Essex), where there are large free standing towns with cross commuting patterns (e.g Milton Keynes, Northampton Bedford) and where there are large dormitory towns with connections in several directions (e.g. Winchester sending commuters to Southampton, Andover and Basingstoke), but at least its a start and with some tweaks to account for these more complex cases could form the basis of assessing housing requirements in a post regional plan world.

In Tunbridge Wells case the housing market assessment shows a shortfall of 19,900 houses compared to the adopted core strategy.  Half of the district is Green Belt, Half AONB (overlapping).   Tunbridge Wells is part of the same ‘West Kent’ housing market area as Tonbridge and Malling (Part of this district is in the Maidstone Housing market area) and most of Sevenoaks.  All three have significant Green Belt areas, Sevenoaks is mostly green belt.  If you added all of the shortfalls from the West Kent districts together it probably be over 50,000 units over 15 years.  Not insignificant.

Of course some parts of Kent have historically taken more than the scale of development implied by household growth, the Northern Thames Gateway and Ashford for example.  As far as I can see thse areas are proposing to roll forward annual rates of development from the previous regional plan.  Whilst Dover, to boost regeneration, is almost unique as a district in proposing voluntarily more housing than in the regional plan.

So lets say the three West Kent districts did some joint working under the ‘duty to cooperate’ and found that they still had a shortfall.  As they couldn’t meet objectively assessed requirements they may find, after any transition period, under threat of ‘appeal led planning’.  So what would they do?  They could look at the housing plans of the other Kent districts, see to what extent their’surpluses’ over their indigenous growth met their own ‘shortfalls’ and if this doesn’t in full to what extent they could  take up the slack.

What then if you were a councillor in Maidstone District and you receive a group from West Kent asking if you could help meet their considerable shortfall.  It is likely that an ‘on your bike’ reply would come – what about Paddock Wood – that’s outside the Green Belt and AONB, what about Aylesford, Ditton, East and West Malling (all outside the AONB and green belt and effectively eastern suburbs of Maidstone)?

Here Kent has a County Council that might facilitate, but other parts of the country such as Berks and Beds have no such luck.

In a rational world you would look at each of these options as well as the scope for futther expansion at Ashford and find some distribution that is the most sustainable, but what would you do in the emerging ‘bottom up’ system?  You could have a joint West and South Kent Strategy (North Kent/Thames Gateway South and East Kent already have good joint working arrangements) or even, though less likel and probably unecessary, a reinstatement of countrywide sub-regional planning on a voluntary basis.

If Maidstone did not cooperate  it would run the risk of objections from its neighbours from the west, as unless there was some containment of overspill none of them could adopt a sound plan.  The ‘we will not cooperate’ scenario, as perfected by Central Beds and North Herts Districts would not be an open option post localism bill and the NPPF.

Indeed there are two unanswered questions on the new system:

 1) Do you have to SEA ‘out of district’ options as a legal requirement (as being ‘reasonable options’);

2) Can you legally include in your strategy areas outside the plan area?

I know a few authorities have been taking legal advice on this and the broad consensus is on 1) yes you do, the EU directive is blind to borders, but on 2 its much less clear legally a plan is contained to its boundaries, it can incorporate a wider agreed strategy but it has to have a mechanism for agreement, if it doesnt then its an issue of deliverability.

These are the two issues that need to be pinned down in a consistent way before anyone can move forward on the ‘larger than local’ agenda.

Being helpful I think that the forthcoming guidance on the duty to cooperate needs to answer the following challenges:

1) Who carries out SEA of larger than local options?

2) What are the mechanisms for consultation?

3)  Who decides on the chosen option – how do you avoid unanamity and deadlock problems?

4) If challenged at what point are those representations heard, do they have to be repeated at each constituent EIP?

5) How do you mesh these arrangements in parallel with individual local plan making?

This is far from the most difficult case, rather it is a run of the mill home counties case.  If you want to see some really difficult cases look at Milton Keynes, Luton, Oxord, Harlow etc. etc.

Some lessons from this thought experiment.

Firstly migration follows the allocations not vice versa, people will move to an area because jobs and houses are available.  Attempting to push down migration assumptions to lower housing targets results in a fallacy of composition at a regional and national level and is gaming the system.

Secondly even the default of splitting a SHMA figure evenly between districts in making a policy choice that might be challenged.  Lets say you lived in Andover, in the M3 housing market area.    Lets say the districts here, Test Valley and Basingstoke and Dene decided to split there housing market figure pro-rata.  You might object saying, you can’t just split it pro-rata, ‘I think Basingstoke is less constrained than Andover (true or not) and so Basingstoke should take proportionately more’, indeed there should be several options subject to SEA and consultation.  It would be very difficult to argue against that, especially if they have a good lawyer working for them.  Default choices are always policy choices and there is (almost) always an alternative.



Can Brownfield Land ever ‘run out’ ? – No but it can speed up or slow down #NPPF

Green Balances report for the CPRE has rightly challenged the assertion in the NPPF impact statement that previously developed sites could run out in the south east.  But why is that?

We need to dig a little deeper.  An any one time the amount of previously developed land (PDL) potentially available, as measured through the National Land Use Database is a ‘stock’ of land.

However the amount of that stock is fixed by two variables – the flow out to development and the flow in from other land uses.

Any variable with a dimension per unit time measure is a ‘flow’ variable, such as dwelling units per year completed.

So put simply the stock at time t+1 = original stock at time t, plus inflow – outflow.  So if the negative rate of change is high enough then in theory the stock could ‘run out’; however as prices go through the roof more and more land from other land uses are likely to come forward, if as long as planning policies allow more intensification of change of use running out is unlikely. But you can imagine that, for example, a small historic town with high constraints, in theory it could or more likely slow down to a very slow annual trickle – which is what we actually see.

You might have twigged that with terms such as ‘rate of change’ this is best expressed with partial differential equations but for risk of eyes glazed over syndrome ill avoid that.

But this hasnt been what is happening, the stock has been growing?  Why – primarily because when land prices are high more land uses will go over to PDL – in the past when  gardens were counted housing would have been a primary source of supply, especially in the south east.  This relationship between supply and price is known as the price elasticity of supply.

Clearly when policy towards loss of non-previously developed is strict land prices will rise and therefore more PDL will come forward.  The trick, and it is a very difficult one, is to ensure that the controls are no so strict that prices across the board for housing are pushed up.  When land prices are high land will get used more intensively (higher densities).

It is quite possible for the % of previously developed land to be rising and the stock of previously developed land to be rising but overall housing numbers to be falling.   Indeed in a few years in the early 2000s the % PDL figure was highly misleading as it was rising only because non-PDL development was falling.  Only in the later naughties did we get a rise of both housing completions overall and the the % PDL.

Sadly national housing completion data is not linked to National Land use database data so our information on changes between different land uses is very poor – though this could easily be fixed if the government reinvigorated the NLUD efforts and linked it to the PS3 (dwelling completions) annual statistical returns.

The problem since 2000 is the definition of PDL to exclude housing.  Many authorities have taken that as a signal to effectively ban redevelopment of housing in existing urban areas, significantly reducing the stock of housing that might flow to PDL and the  putting additional pressure for greenfield land releases.

This broad relationships are shown in the following stock-flow (forester) diagram, if you asked me can we put numbers into these relationships for different years?  No national statsitics are not disaggregated in this manner – we are flying blind:

Telegraph – on the final TCPA and CPRE #NPPF Responses


Planning experts have warned that the proposed changes to the planning system, which opponents say will result in more development in the countryside, risk harming the country’s ability to grow its own food by failing to safeguard the best agricultural land.

The Town and Country Planning Association say the new rules do not require local authorities to replace prime agricultural land that could be lost to building developments and future sea level rises.

Other campaigners also fear the draft National Planning Policy Framework, which introduces a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” could even see some of the most productive farmland being at greatest risk of being turned over to make way for housing.

The document says that land of lowest environmental value should be developed first, but campaigners fear that because some of the most productive arable farmland tends to be dominated by just one species of plant, it could fall under this definition.

The fresh warnings come as the Coalition prepares to end a three month consultation on the draft framework, which has provoked intense criticism from environmental groups and heritage organisations led by the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

“Planning needs to deal comprehensively on food security and the NPPF is silent on that issue,” he added.

“There needs to be an increased emphasis on food security because of climate change and some of our most productive land is threatened by environmental change on a grand scale.”

His views are supported by Professor Tim Lang, an expert in food policy at City University London. He said: “We need to give more priority in land use policy to what I call ‘sustainable food systems’ – producing more food, in better environmental ways to feed people.”

The CPRE accused the Conservatives of reneging on an election pledge to “introduce into our national planning framework rules preventing the development of the most fertile farmland”.

Neil Sindon, director of policy and campaigns at the CPRE, added: “The NPPF is totally hopeless at attaching significance and weight to protecting our ability to produce food domestically in the future.

“High quality agricultural land is not necessarily of high environmental value in biodiversity terms, so the NPPF actually places some of our most precious agricultural land at greater risk than it currently is.”

In further embarrassment for the government, a Conservative-led council in Chancellor George Osborne’s own constituency has criticised key parts of the policy, despite Mr Osborne’s insistence that the planning reforms are essential to the economic recovery of the country.

East Cheshire Council, which is part of Mr Osborne’s Tatton Constituency, criticised this approach by warning that the NPPF risked “overstating the economic case to the detriment of the social and environmental consideration”.

In a response to be submitted to the NPPF consultation the council states it is “strongly opposed” to any approach that could see current local development plans being invalidated by the new regulations.

It also called for stronger control on outdoor advertising in the countryside and warned the vast majority of the English countryside is left unprotected by the NPPF, stating that the role of agriculture should play a greater role in the framework.

The criticism comes as campaigners against the policy will publish a new report next week that will attack the government’s removal of the requirement for local authorities to prioritise brownfield land for development in the new regulations.

The report, written by planing consultants Green Balance for the CPRE, will cast doubt on the government’s claims in documentation accompanying the NPPF that supplies of brownfield land are drying up, necessitating development in the wider countryside.

Analysis of official government figures since 2001 have revealed that in many areas of the country, especially in the south of England, the supply of brownfield sites, also known as previously developed land (PDL), has outstripped the level of development.

The figures show that across the whole of England between 2001 and 2009, enough brownfield land for 942,410 houses was used for development while land for 1,517,380 houses became newly available in that same period.

The report states: “No region shows a persistent decline in the area of suitable previously developed land available for housing. Far from running out, it has the capacity to supply an increasing number of dwellings.

“The evidence available of an ongoing supply of previously developed land contributing to new housing supply all around the country is overwhelming.

“The Government’s assertion that “under plausible assumptions, the brownfield land target would cease to be sustainable in the (high demand) southern regions by 2015-16” is scaremongering.

“The southern regions have demonstrated particularly resilient supplies of PDL, and neither these nor any other region are in danger of ‘running out’.”

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “The draft framework includes strong protections to safeguard land used for farming, ensuring that councils making planning decisions take into account the economic and other benefits of good quality and versatile agricultural land.

“The draft framework encourages the use of brownfield sites for development, and will give power back to local communities to decide which areas they wish to see developed and protected, away from the interference of Whitehall.”