In many places, the NPPF is not yet leading to plan-led development. Only 54% of Local Planning Authorities have a Local Plan, and the Local Plan adoption rate has slowed since the new Planning Framework was adopted.
Planning balances the interests of the nation as a community with those of individuals – and Local Plans should be at the heart of the planning system. Without a Local Plan, or with an out of date plan, it seems that communities are at risk from speculative development mainly due the five year land supply rules.
The NPPF is rightly supporting higher housing figures overall, but we feel these is a risk these will go in the wrong places, Some councils are finding it difficult to accommodate the figures in their emerging plans, and most particularly councils that have environmental constraints, such as Green Belt or land recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It is critical that we get more plans in place, and to ensure this happens Planning Inspectors and the Government might need to be more flexible about how they apply the five year housing land supply requirements, particularly in areas with environmental constraints.
The NPPF actually has a very good definition of sustainable development but is it actually being delivered when councils grant off-plan developments? Are these ‘presumptive’ developments sustainable – are they in the right locations, and well designed, with good infrastructure links? Government should gather more evidence to determine this – at the moment sustainable development is the dog that hasn’t barked in the night.
We should focus new development on brownfield sites, which are often close to existing jobs and transport links, and make sure that protections for National Parks, AONBs and Green Belt remain robust. Councils have always been able to adjust Green Belt boundaries here and there, but if we are to preserve the value of having Green Belt these should be small adjustments and not big incursions. We have called for investment to get brownfield sites ‘shovel ready’ and it seems from his recent announcement that the Chancellor’s heart is now in the right place on brownfield. Where brownfield sites are not available, we understand that green field sites may be needed for new housing. These should be chosen by the council through its Local Plan.