Having digested the contents of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF2), issued by the government in late July, it’s evident that some significant changes have been made to the original NPPF.
Among the new policies outlined, the following five key considerations contained within NPPF2 are particularly noteworthy:
- Relevance to emerging local plans and current applications – Annex 1 of the NPPF2 clarifies that the policies in the original NPPF will apply for the purpose of examining plans where those plans are submitted (and not withdrawn) on or before 24 January 2019. For current applications not yet decided then the policies in NPPF2 will apply but local policies will not be considered out of date simply because they were adopted prior to NPPF2.
- Amended trigger of the tilted balance - The presumption in favour of sustainable development for housing applications (“the tilted balance”) has been updated in NPPF2. It is now at Paragraph 11(d) and will be activated by any failure to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply or failure of the new Housing Delivery Test. The test measures the number of homes created against local housing need and penalise councils that deliver below 25% (2018), 45% (2019) and 75% (2020 onwards).
- Increased importance of small sites – NPPF2 reflects the Government’s objective of improving the importance of small sites in meeting councils’ housing requirements. Specifically, paragraph 68(a) requires at least 10% of the identified land supply for housing to be accommodated on sites no larger than one hectare unless there are strong reasons why this is not possible. Additionally, paragraph 69 requires neighbourhood planning groups to consider the opportunities for allocating small and medium-sized sites suitable for housing in their area within their neighbourhood plan.
- Three year land supply and neighbourhood plans (NDPs) – The objective of the 2016 written ministerial statement on NDPs is now contained within Paragraph 14. It provides that if the tilted balance is engaged, due to a lack of five year land supply, then NDPs will ‘significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits’ of the development provided: a) the NDP is no more two years old; b) the NDP contains policies and allocations to meet its identified housing requirement; c) the council has at least a three year land supply; and d) the council’s housing delivery was at least 45% of that required over the previous three years.
- Use of Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) – PPAS are a voluntary project management tool which councils and applicants can use to agree timescales, actions and resources for handling particular applications. They encourage joint working between the applicant and council, and can also help to bring together other parties such as statutory consultees. Paragraph 46 highlights the benefits of PPAs and suggests that, for the determination of larger or more complex applications, it is likely that they will achieve a faster and more effective application process.