07/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/21/2021 04:00
The definition of sustainable development, the key principle underpinning the planning system, has been expanded, to include the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development from the UN.
In paragraph 8, the defined social and environmental objectives of sustainable development have been updated. The social objective has introduced beauty as a requirement ('beautiful and safe places') although as might be expected, 'beauty' is not defined. The environmental objective wording has been strengthened with a requirement to 'protect and enhance' the environment and 'improve biodiversity' rather than 'contribute to' protection and 'helping to improve' biodiversity.
The presumption in favour of sustainable development has been retained, but for plan-making (paragraph 11a) it has been updated with a more green focus to include the twin requirements for development to improve the environment and mitigate climate change. The term 'positively' has also been removed from this paragraph (although this remains a key test for soundness for local plan production at paragraph 35 and is retained in paragraph 16) and the focus remains to 'meet' development needs - perhaps the very minimum requirement.
Paragraph 22 expands the need to look further ahead than the plan period (at least 30 years) to take into account the timescale for delivery. This reinforces LPAs ability to include larger proposals in LPs but arguably increases the level of robustness required.
Guidance on the use of Article 4 Directions has been updated to reflect changes to permitted development rights creating new homes from non-residential properties, with additional emphasis on restricting the use of Article 4 Directions to the 'smallest possible geographical area.'
Paragraph 96 has been introduced which adds emphasis on LPAs working with developers, delivery partners and statutory bodies to ensure faster delivery of public service infrastructure such as colleges and hospitals.
The NPPF has also been updated to include reference to the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code and the use of area-, neighbourhood- and site-specific design guides. Paragraph 131 has been introduced with emphasis on the importance of trees to the character of an area and the quality of environments. The new requirement for new streets to be tree-lined will have significant highways implications, and the 'solutions' suggested in this paragraph may not be an easy compromise.
'Significant weight' should also be given to development which reflects local design policies, government guidance and outstanding or innovative design which promotes high levels of sustainability 'or helps raise the standard of design more generally in an area.' Time will tell whether the 'significant weight' afforded to the increased emphasis on 'local' design will counter the presumption in favour.
Improvements to biodiversity should also be integrated into design (paragraph 180) and there are updates to the need for sensitive location of development within designated areas. Guidance on the removal or alterations to statues and monuments has been updated to increase protection to these assets, with the likely result of adding increased complexity to the planning process in relation to permitted development rights and other, non-planning requirements.
This revised NPPF will now form a material planning consideration and may be an interim measure intended to provide clarity to the development industry and LPAs ahead of wider planning reforms mooted in the Planning White Paper and Changes to the Planning System consultations in 2020.