On Village Envelope Boundaries – Still Relevant Post #NPPF?

 

The form and nature of local plans has changed very little since the inception of the NPPF.  We still have much the same planning policy concepts and structure of local plans, as well as length 800+ pages not being uncommon.

One area that deserves a hard look is Village Envelope Boundaries.  Under the PPG world the purpose of such policies was clear – to mark the extent of the ‘open countryside’ which was protected and conversely the area where settlement infill policies applied conversely.  With that protection removed the debate shifted to whether these were  “[relevant] policies for the supply of housing” under para 49.  The outcome of the courts, subject to the current Supreme Court case is they are.

As a result the main problem most authorities have faced is a flood of applications for villages outside the Green Belt of inappropriate size and often inappropriate scale.

Other designations have fared less harshly under the courts, in particular settlement gaps, which have been held not to be necessarily ‘out of date’ through age alone if they serve a landscape purpose and housing growth can be met elsewhere.

The problem with ‘classic’ village envelopes is they can fall so easily out of date once you lack a 5 year housing supply.

The starting point I would suggest is to define policies for distribution of housing that

  1. Define the distribution of growth for villages both in absolute and relative terms
  2. That local plans have ‘plan b’ policies for circumstances of not having a 5 year supply, that can mean reserve sites or directing growth to particular areas, rather than simply repeating the original % split.

Then for villages the priority for policy is to define where growth is unacceptable on landscape and conservation terms and then define areas where organic growth is acceptable over time.  This of course is how villages historically grew, organically and slowly until the 20C.  A greater rate of growth is needed today but the same principles apply.

Many of the ‘unnaceptable’ areas can be defined as LGS, but if these are necessarily ‘extensive tracts’ some form of local landscape designation is needed.