Things you need to know about the new NPPF

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Things you need to know about the new NPPF

Published 20 August 2018

The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 24 July 2018.  It is the first update since 2012 and the Housing White Paper published in February 2017.  Its primary objective is to boost housing supply but it is also a material planning consideration for other forms of development.

We have identified the following 7 key changes in the NPPF which we summarise in more detail below:

1. Revision to the presumption in favour of sustainable development
2. Affordable Housing
3. Green Belt
4. Housing delivery
5. Effective use of Land
6. Improved design
7. Local plan examination

Revision to the presumption in favour of sustainable development

Paragraph 11 retains the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Plan-making - A new section has been introduced on preparing and reviewing plans making it clear that policies should be “reviewed” (assessed to determine whether they need updating) at least once every five years and should then be “updated as necessary". 

Decision-making - There is an emphasis on front loading of the planning system and pre-application engagement.

The detail of viability and policy compliance is set out in planning guidance but the NPPF does set out some fundamental principles. These are:

  • Planning applications that comply with up to date policies should be assumed to be viable;
  • It is up to the applicant to demonstrate whether particular circumstances justify the need for a viability assessment at application stage;
  • The weight to be given to a viability assessment is a matter for the decision maker having regard to all circumstances in the case;
  • All viability assessments should reflect the recommended approach set out in national guidance (including standardised inputs); and
  • All viability assessments should be made publically available.

Planning permission is to be granted where there are no relevant development plan policies or the policies which "are the most important for determining the application" are "out of date" (Paragraph 11 (d)) unless policies in the NPPF protect the area or asset or there are clear reasons for refusing the development; or

The adverse impacts of granting the permission would outweigh the benefits.

Out of date is where a five year supply of land for housing cannot be demonstrated and where the housing delivery test (of 75% of requirement) has not been met (footnote 7).

Plans are expected to set out the developer contributions expected from development.

Greater strength is given to neighbourhood plans.

Despite the recent ECJ judgment in People Over Wind, paragraph 177 (previously 175) which states that “the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where developments requiring appropriate assessment because of its potential impact on a habitats site is being planned or determined” is retained. The Government is examining the implications of the judgment “closely” but is not proposing any change to the Framework at this time.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing contribution thresholds are now included (previously only contained within the PPG and the Written Ministerial Statement).  Provision of affordable housing should not be sought for residential developments which are not "major developments", other than in designated rural areas. "Major development" in the context of housing is defined in Annex 2 of the new NPPF as development where 10 or more homes will be provided or the site has an area of 0.5 hectares or more. This appears to mean that the national approach to setting thresholds for affordable housing provision now applies to sites of 9 dwellings or less which are also less than 0.5 hectares in area.

Vacant building credit is now incorporated.

The definition of affordable housing has been changed to include social housing.

The definition of starter home changed to reflect legislation.

Green Belt

Before concluding that exceptional circumstances exist to justify the release of Green Belt land the council must demonstrate that all other options have been considered including  looking at brownfield / densities / duty of care to cooperate with neighbouring authorities to see if the neighbouring authority can accommodate some of the identified need.

Delivering a sufficient supply of homes

Major development is to provide at least 10% of homes to be available for “affordable home ownership”.

There is a requirement for 10% of the LPA housing requirement to be allocated on sites no larger than one hectare (unless there are strong reasons why this target cannot be achieved).

The necessity for local planning authorities to maintain a five year supply of land for housing and for a suitable buffer to be included within this supply (based on previous delivery) is retained.  Where delivery falls below 95% of requirement over a three year period there is a requirement on LPAs to produce an Action Plan.

Making effective use of land

The NPPF does not advocate any national standards for such minimum densities. The policy also specifically refers to the need to reflect the type of dwellings needed in an area and respect for the character of that area.

Improved design

The NPPF states that LPAs should ensure that “they have access to, and make appropriate use of, tools and processes for assessing and improving the design of development. These include workshops to engage the local community, design advice and review arrangements, and assessment frameworks such as Building for Life”.

Local Plan Examination

The NPPF policies come into effect straight away but local plans submitted before the end of January will be examined against the 2012 NPPF.  Development plans submitted after 24 January 2019 will be examined under the new NPPF.

The NPPF now states that the Government’s planning policies “should be applied” whereas previously, the expectation was that they would be.  The Government intends to expand and clarify the new Framework through guidance which will not require consultation or announcement. We will update further when there are developments of note.  In the meantime please do not hesitate to contact Amanda Brodie should you wish to discuss the NPPF in more detail.

Authors

Christopher Stanwell

Christopher Stanwell

London - Walbrook

+44 (0)20 7894 6269

Key Contacts

Christopher Stanwell

Christopher Stanwell

London - Walbrook

+44 (0)20 7894 6269