Time for a change?

SHOULD the government heed MPs' advice and make significant changes to its draft planning policy?

DUNCAN Hartley asks whether the government should heed MPs' advice and make significant changes to its draft planning policy.

As 2011 came to a close, the Communities and Local Government select committee published its own review of the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The NPPF will steer local government planning policy for years to come and would reduce guidance from the current 1,000 pages to just 50.

The national media has highlighted one key issue in the select committee response – the draft NPPF gives the impression that greater emphasis should be given in planning decisions to economic growth.

This serves to undermine the importance of environmental and social elements of the planning system.

Some of the suggestions in the MP's select committee response include:

· A default answer of 'yes' to development which brings economic growth should be removed and the decision making process rebalanced between applying environmental and social considerations;

· A need for expanding and strengthening the definition of sustainable development – and the committee offers a more inclusive definition;

· The NPPF must unambiguously reflect the supremacy of Local Plans – so that planning decisions are to be taken within the presumption in favour of sustainable development consistent with the Local Plan

The absolute importance of the Local Plan is the key issue raised by the MP select committee. Without an adopted Local Plan the planning system can come into disrepute.

The National Planning Policy Framework should set the right tone, the need to balance economic, social and environmental considerations, for the detailed decision making tool that is the Local Plan.

Recently some policy advisors have emphasised the issue of localism without fully recognising that we have long had a legislated system for the delivery of local decision making – the Local Plan.

The immediate need is for local government to resource and deliver adopted Local Plans.

It is essential that these plans are kept up to date to mitigate the doom laden predictions for our green and pleasant land by some policy protagonists.

Duncan Hartley is director of planning at Rural Solutions and a former chief planning officer.


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