The National Planning Policy Framework: five things you need to know

On 5th March 2018, the Government released draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which runs until 10th May 2018.  Here are five things you need to know about the draft revisions:

1. Making effective use of land is a priority:

 

  • Promotes use of under-utilised land/ buildings and the air space above existing residential and commercial premises.
  • Promotes minimum density standards in town and city centres and around transport hubs.
  • Proposes to reallocate land where there is no reasonable prospect of an allocated use being realised.
  • Makes it easier to convert retail/ employment land to housing where appropriate.
  • Encourages local authorities to be pro-active in bringing forward brownfield land, using the full range of powers available to them.

2. Green Belt protection remains strong, albeit with some exceptions:

 

  • Proposes that brownfield land in the Green Belt can be used for development that would contribute to meeting an identified local affordable housing need ‘where there is no substantial harm to openness’.
  • Introduces criteria to be satisfied before ‘exceptional circumstances’ can be demonstrated to change Green Belt boundaries.  These relate to promoting higher density development on brownfield land, including across administrative boundaries.
  • Permits material changes of use that will not result in harm to the openness of the Green Belt.

3. Improving affordability and addressing the need for housing are key:

 

  • Proposes to convert the small sites exemption and Vacant Buildings Credit (VBC) into policy, with affordable housing not being sought for developments that are ‘not on major sites’ other than in rural areas, where policies may set a threshold of five units or fewer.
  • Proposes that at least 10% of homes should be available for affordable home ownership, where major housing development is proposed.
  • Promotes sites dedicated to first-time buyers, Build to Rent homes with ‘family-friendly tenancies’, guaranteed affordable homes for key workers and adapted homes for older people.

4. Speeding up housing delivery is paramount:

 

  • Proposes implementation of a standard methodology for housing needs assessments.
  • Proposes measures to incentivise local planning authorities to keep their 5-year housing land supply up-to-date.
  • Proposes that LPAs to consider the use of planning conditions to bring forward development within two years.
  • Proposes that local planning authorities should ensure that at least 20% of the sites allocated for housing in their plans are of half a hectare or less, to make SMEs more competitive.
  • Outlines a ‘recommended approach’ towards viability assessments – to be further defined, including the use of review mechanisms to capture increases in value.

5. Other News:

 

  • Heritage: Strengthens the weight given to the protection of heritage assets.  Decision-makers should give great weight to the conservation of assets, irrespective of the degree of potential harm that will result from a proposal.
  • Parking: To tackle on-street parking stress/highway safety, maximum parking standards should only be set where there is a clear and compelling justification that they are necessary for managing the local road network.
  • Noise: The ‘agent of change’ (or applicant) should be responsible for mitigating the impact on their scheme of potential nuisance arising from existing development, such as live music venues.

The government’s intention is to produce a final version before the summer.

To find out more about what opportunities the proposed changes to the NPPF bring for developers, please contact a member of the Nash Partnership planning team.