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27 March 2012

New planning policy framework takes effect

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by Gill Montia

New planning policy framework takes effect

The final version of the National Planning Policy Framework has been published today and takes effect immediately.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Planning Minister, Greg Clarke, told MPs that the reforms make planning much simpler and more accessible, having reduced over a thousand pages of guidance to around 50 pages.

In particular, the framework makes it clear that the local plan is the keystone of the “planning edifice” and that sustainable development embraces social and environmental as well as economic objectives.

The framework also:

Refers explicitly to the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy.

Goes further than before and is clear that councils should look for net improvements on all dimensions of sustainability.

Makes explicit that the presumption in favour of sustainable development works through, not against, local plans.

Makes it clear that relevant policies – such as those protecting the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Parks and other areas – cannot be overridden by the presumption.

Recognises the intrinsic value and beauty of the countryside (whether specifically designated or not).

Makes explicit what was always implicit: that councils’ policies must encourage brownfield sites to be brought back into use.

Underlines the importance of town centres, while recognising that businesses in rural communities should be free to expand.

Takes a localist approach to creating a buffer of housing supply over and above five years, and in the use of windfall sites.

Allows councils to protect back gardens.

Ensures that playing fields continue to benefit from that same protection as before.

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