More NPPF Amendments by Stealth – The Government’s Response to the DCLG Select #NPPF Report


You can tell on the first page that this is not a serious engagement with the report when they say

Plan making has significantly improved under this Government.

Later it tells an outright Porkie

As recent plan-making progress is very positive, the Government has no immediate plans to introduce a statutory requirement to get Local Plans in place. However, the Government will keep under review whether it may be necessary to introduce further requirements or sanctions in respect of plan-making in the future should this situation change.

Thanks to this Government’s reforms, we have recently seen a substantial uplift in planmaking.


When we know ministers dont even believe that and are seriously worried.   The only thing we have seen an uplift in since the NPPF is plans failing to pass muster and bcome adopted,  Indeed plan progress has not been as slow in the last 20 years. By ‘should the situation change; it means after the election when a new SoS cleans up Eric’s mess.

It then goes on to reject the recommendations concerning changes to the NPPF itself, almost every one.

Except intriguingly

Planning guidance further refers to the need to keep plans proportionate. However, the Government agrees that this could be stated more clearly and will consider a clarification to the Framework/Planning guidance.

Perhaps this is the long awaited ban on policies that offend ministers prejudices – like as the Policy Exchange ban on Cycle parking, much like Peter Bottomlys famous checklist of conservative dog whistle issues on what the GLDP mustn’t contain many years ago  and as hinted at in a letter from Boris to Eric last month.

It doesnt even accept obvious and silly omissions from the NPPF like requiring plans be kept up to date.

The Government agrees that plans should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they are kept current and provide a robust framework for decision-taking. The Framework does this by requiring plans to be based on appropriate and up-to-date evidence. Planning guidance sets out that most plans are likely to require updating in whole or part every five years. The Government will be writing to those local authorities who adopted their Local Plans before 2010 to remind them of the need to review their plans or to continue with their work in this respect.

Of course the NPPF only requires local plans as submitted to be based on up to date evidence and without a statutory requirement to keep plans yup to date is toothless.

One para paints a different picture on interpretation of the NPPF which is effectively an amendment.

In the Government’s view it is already clear that all sites would count against the five year supply of housing land unless it is very clear that these sites will not be delivered.

Of course if this reversal of proof was already clear they wouldn’t be saying it.

There is an interesting and correct view on the responsibility for Green Belt reviews

the Government is also clear that the responsibility for a review of the Green Belt rests with the local planning authority and must be conducted through the local plan process of consultation and examination. The rationale for this approach is to ensure the Green Belt is considered in the round of all the other planning issues the Council is addressing in its Local Plan and on an authority-wide, and indeed a cross-authority basis where appropriate.

The Select Committee said

We recommend that the Government take appropriate steps to impress publicly upon both the Planning Inspectorate and local authorities the importance of giving equal weight to each of the three dimensions of sustainable development,

The Government agrees with the intention of this recommendation, but considers that the need for decision makers to give equal weight to the three dimensions of sustainable development is already clear

Again if it was already clear they wouldnt need to say it.  The wording of the NPPF about mutually reinforcing and being pursued together etc. does not imply they are given equal weight.  This statement is effectively an amendment.

The response on the Duty to Cooperate expressly says the government will not be issuing new guidance on what constitutes cooperation. The reason for this is the government does not want to spell out that meeting the duty requires strategic planning having just abolished it, it would make them look foolish.  So LPAs have to figure it out for themselves (after years of unnecessary conflict and delay).

The Government does not intend to link grants to the duty to co-operate as it is a central requirement of plan-making,

The Government does not, however, feel that top-down direction requiring local authorities to join together in plan-making is appropriate given local areas should rightfully arrive at whatever is the most appropriate approach to plan-making locally.

To which I would ask the SoS a question, how will this work around Oxford for example, where as we showed here yesterday authorities have been refusing to cooperate since 1948, or around Luton where the LPAs are at war and in the courts, or between Cannock Chase district and Brum where there is an outright refusal to cooperate.  Many of us will not live long enough to see these parties ‘rightfully arrive; at a solution/

On viability it states – interesting

The Government is considering strengthening existing guidance on transparency, in particular in relation to the use of section 106 planning obligations agreements. This will include related viability assessment processes, subject to the caveat of not compromising commercial confidentiality where this would risk harming or inhibiting commercial activity…

The Government will test further with applicants, local authorities and representative bodies whether there is an appetite for joint endorsement of the use of particular models or principles of viability assessment as best practice. It does not believe that imposition by Government of a single viability model for all purposes would be appropriate or welcomed and that it would conflict with commercial practice.


Planning guidance recommends use of a standard methodology to assessing housing need based on a simple core method using secondary data sources. This approach avoids the need for complicated bespoke arrangements and ensures that assessment findings are transparently prepared.

The problem being the simple core methodology is too simple hence the make it up as go along and you read each precedent and caselaw approach which leads inevitably to complicated bespoke arrangements.

On the split examination idea

The Government is open to considering whether modest improvements to the examination procedure could increase certainty for local authorities. We are discussing with the District Councils Network and Planning Officers Society their proposals for a split examination process to see whether there would be merit in taking this further. However, the Government does not support fundamental changes to the plan making or examination process which could risk delay.

The Government ties itself ever more in cirlces on NP/LP links

The legislation is clear that a neighbourhood plan is considered against the development plan, not an emerging Local Plan. Yet the Government fully understands the concern of those submitting evidence to the Committee that, in order to retain the confidence of communities, a neighbourhood plan must be an effective tool to shape development. Planning guidance draws attention to the importance of minimising any conflicts between policies in the neighbourhood plan and those in an emerging Local Plan. Neighbourhood plans, like Local Plans, should be designed with sufficient flexibility to respond to changed circumstances if they are to shape development not just for the immediate future but for many years ahead.

Planning found the solution to this decades ago with the ‘permitted assumption’ test that local plans could be deemed to conform to an emerging and not an existing adopted structure plan.  This reply hints at the fact that the localism act is much more badly worded that the 1990 act and this test, introduced through secondary legislation, is not possible.  So amend the legislation.

It reaffirms the Chancellors LDO led approach to brownfield even though the Mayor of London, who served as the model, has rightly already dropped the idea as unsuitable.

The Government expects to see local development orders granting permission for housing in place on more than 90 per cent of suitable brownfield land by 2020 and believe this could provide planning permissions for up to 200,000 new homes.

Another subtle change to the NPPF

the Government does not agree that without an up-to-date Local Plan local authorities surrender their ability to influence the future development of their areas. The Framework is clear that it is the purpose of planning to enable only truly sustainable development, not development at any cost.

Again it is not clear and the NPPF does not say at any point.  This is a new phrase introduced in recent months to see a subtle shift away from the full weight of para 14. It is also a subtle shift away from local plan primacy.  As Brandon says just rely ion the NPPF (as recently reintepreted) and refuse and this side of the election we will  probably support you on appeal, especially if you have pulled the neighborhood plan bait and switch.

On Green Belt reviews it repeats the position that this is entirely a matter for LPAs.

On NPs

The Government welcomes the Committee’s support for neighbourhood planning and its recognition of the tremendous achievements of the 52 communities that have said ‘yes’ to housing and other development delivered through a neighbourhood plan or a neighbourhood development order.

Of course in England there are 9948 or so other communities without one which routinely say no to housing.  Localism has had no impact on delivery of housing, not a pinprick.  This is not being cynical , neighborhood planning is a good thing but it does nothing on a national scale to improve delivery the real problem, which was the utopian and disproved hope of Greg Clark.

So to summarise.  The DCLG select committee somewhat unrealistically believed that the rate of local plan production could be increased 10 fold and this would solve everything.  The DCLG don’t believe this they are dis paring of the problem, everyone knows this, but they say the opposite in public as this would be to admit the main premise the NPPF was based on, that it would act as a stick to incentivize local plan production, has failed nd Eric would look like a fool.  Well we all know he looks like a fool. His entire package of reforms has failed as we now get less land allocated and housing in sustainable locations replaced by scattered unsustainable development in villages with neighbourhood pans becoming a tool for undershooting OAN rather than meeting it.

5 thoughts on “More NPPF Amendments by Stealth – The Government’s Response to the DCLG Select #NPPF Report

  1. Thanks for the analysis.

    “‘The Framework is clear that it is the purpose of planning to enable only truly sustainable development, not development at any cost.’ – Again it is not clear and the NPPF does not say at any point. This is a new phrase introduced in recent months to see a subtle shift away from the full weight of para 14. It is also a subtle shift away from local plan primacy”

    The notion that there is a presumption against unsustainable development was mentioned when the NPPF was launched back on the 27th of March 2012, as Greg Clark then (Minister of State, Communities and Local Government) stated: “…No development can take place that is unsustainable. That is the commitment that we give on that point…” (HC Deb, 27 March 2012, c1344). The question of whether this principle was made clear in the NPPF itself and whether the Secretary of State for CLG seems to have ignored that principle in deciding some appeals is, of course, another matter…

    • I should also add the notion of a double test – test of sustainable if not then refuse and if not assess against rest of NPPF and development plan has been rejected by one inspector in a couple of appeals and his reasoning expressly supported by the SOS – ill try to dig out the reference. This doctrine has been referred to in some of the ‘housing policy’ caselaw.

  2. Pingback: Govnment response to parliamentary criticism of NPPF | East Devon Watch

  3. Pingback: Why so Many Pickles Housing Decisions are Being Refused – The 10 Covert Changes to National Planning Policy | Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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