Saturday, 10 March 2012

Some evidence suggesting the CPRE are wrong about the National Planning Policy Framework


A core criticism of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been that it will be in place ahead of most local authorities having adopted a Local Development Framework (LDF). Given that the NPPF states that, in the absence of a policy locally or nationally the presumption should be that (sustainable) development is permitted. Hence the CPRE’s response:

An analysis by CPRE shows that almost half of England’s local authorities (48 per cent) will be without an adopted Core Strategy development plan document on 1 April 2012 when the NPPF is intended to come into force. Almost a fifth (17 per cent) of local plans are still likely to be missing a year later. This means that, if the NPPF is not altered and no effective transitional arrangements for local planning are provided, planning applications in those areas will be decided primarily in accordance with national rather than local planning policy.

The obvious concern here is that developers will target authorities without a Core Strategy to force through their developments over the heads of local councils and local councillors. Now I don’t lay claim to being a planning lawyer – or even a planner – but I’ve been pretty sure from the start that this argument is best described as “scaremongering”. It’s probably true that, if developers felt it worth their while, there would be an increase in planning appeals (as CPRE suggest).

The question therefore is how the system – applicants, planning authorities, planning inspectors and the courts – view the period of transition. In simple terms what weight is given to the different plans, policies by those making recommendations and decisions?

Are the CPRE right in arguing that the NPPF – once approved by parliament – will trump any other plan? Or am I right in taking the view that, so long as the local authority is progressing to an LDF, that will be recognised and given due weight? Plus of course the recognition that “saved policies” from the previous (in Bradford’s case) ‘replacement Unitary Development Plan’ (rUDP) will also be given weight in any decision – rather like this (quotes taken from APP/W4705/A/11/2154371 Buck Park Quarry, Denholme):

“With respect to national policy, besides Planning Policy Statements (PPSs), Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) and Mineral Policy Guidance (MPG), the Draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is capable of being a material consideration.”

This rather supports the CPRE position except that the same Inspector, in the same decision, also said:

“The Council is in the process of preparing its Local Development Framework (LDF) and specifically it’s Core Strategy (CS)...for the next 15 year plan period to 2027. The CS...were published for public consultation and are scheduled to be submitted for public examination sometime in 2012. Given their advanced stage towards adoption, I give these documents more than the negligible weight ascribed to them by the appellant’s planning policy witness.”

This rather undermines the CPRE position. The developer argued that the emerging LDF should be ignored in preference for the historic rUDP. I cannot see that planning authorities, inspectors or the courts will take a different approach to challenges relating to the NPPF once adopted as national policy. Where local planning authorities are well advanced in developing a local plan, I can’t see there being this frightening scenario where there is no policy.

As I’m sure the CPRE’s planners know, the system has always allowed for weight to be given to new plans before approval – which applies equally to the NPPF and to LDFs. But then that wouldn’t have made a headline now would it!


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