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Clark defends NPPF despite drop in approvals

Glenigan data shows planning approvals fell by over a third in the month after the introduction of the government’s policy shake-up

Planning minister Greg Clark has rejected claims that the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is failing to boost development.

His remarks came three months after the shake-up of the planning system with the streamlined policy designed to speed up applications.

They also coincided with the release of fresh data from industry monitor Glenigan showing there was a 37 per cent drop in the number of planning approvals in April compared with March – the month of the NPPF’s publication.

Asked to respond to claims the NPPF had stifled development, Clark said: ‘I don’t recognise that. If you look at the reaction of industry, the RIBA, the Design Council CABE, everyone recognises that this is the most supportive framework for policy for architecture and innovation in architecture.’

But Anthony Hoete of What Architecture said the policy – which features a presumption in favour of sustainable development and an emphasis on high-quality architectural design – was yet to deliver ‘tangible changes’.

He said: ‘We have an eight-storey development in a conservation area and the local authority doesn’t appear to be taking any note of the NPPF. The government should be forcing local authorities to act.’

Foster Lomas director Greg Lomas added that the 60-page document ‘lacked clarity’ and reported a doubling in time taken to validate planning applications. He said: ‘The claim is that it should simplify planning policy but my view is it is just confusing.’

But Broadway Malyan planning director Adam Ross said it was ‘early days’ and praised the policy for creating a ‘stick to hit local authorities with if they don’t do things’.

He said: ‘Local authorities are starting to realise you can’t just sit back and obstruct development.’

Other comments:

Dominic Eaton of Stride Treglown said: ‘It is too soon to really gauge the full impact of the recent NPPF. However, from my experience there is still a lot of work to do to help make the planning process work more effectively. My concern is that the process has become very complex with a wide range of stakeholders involved in decision making. I was involved in a ‘start up’ meeting for a large housing scheme recently won in competition, and there were around 23 people around the table. This indicates to me the level of detail that a detailed planning application has to achieve to even be capable of being registered. There has always been collaboration and consultation with local design review panels and third part stakeholders. But the amount of time and effort this takes is considerably more than say five years ago.

Tim Quick of Formation Architects said: ”The NPPF isn’t making much of an impact so far in our experience – but it’s early days. The real problem, as ever, is the lack of staff resource in planning departments.’

Ian Abley, an architect and organiser for of the 250 New Towns Club said: ‘The NPPF has institutionalised the requirement for developers to prove their projects are not unsustainable. There are five criteria in the NPPF against which sustainability must be proven, with the combined effect of making it illegitimate for developers to argue that population growth is a reason to build new housing in large volumes. The NPPF has formalised the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act as an instrument to resist house building and sustain inflated housing markets. Planning has been reduced to a localised exercise in misanthropic Estate Agency by the NPPF. The anti-social effects are only just being seen.’

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