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NPPF: the industry's reaction

The profession responds to the radical new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which came into force yesterday

Andrew Matthews of Proctor and Matthews: ‘We’re pleased that the NPPF contains a dedicated section on design and it is reassuring design is now a primary issue for decision makers.‘But given that many more key decisions will be amde by local people we are worried there is currently a lack of support to help them make good decisions about design.
‘The NPPF is correct that design panels can help, where they exist, but more needs to be done to fill the design skills gap at the local level.’

Chris Patience of Ellis Miller: ‘As long as a presumption in favour of sustainable development is consistent with local plans we support the government’s attempts to streamline the planning process and provide a much needed economic stimulus for the British Construction industry.’

Heinz Richardson, director at Jestico + Whiles: ‘Any initiative to simplify and speed up the planning process is to be welcomed particularly if the increasing shortfall of well-designed available homes of all tenures can be addressed.

The absence of many local plans will create serious problems

However the definition of what constitutes ‘sustainable development’ is extremely unclear and open to interpretation. Confusion will abound until it is clear how the passing of power in to the hands of local communities will actually translate in to action that avoids yet further delays and nimbyism. The absence of many local plans will create serious problems.

Ruth Reed, ex-RIBA president and chair of the institute’s planning group: ‘We are delighted that the Government has accepted many of the key recommendations put forward by the RIBA. Enshrining good design as a core planning principle and ensuring that the advice of design review panels has greater weight within the planning system will send a clear message to developers, planning officers and committees that poor quality development will no longer be accepted.
‘However, policy alone will not deliver the good quality built environment that our future generations deserve. Although the transitional arrangements are welcome, we hope that the Government will truly back the plan-led system by ensuring that local communities and local authorities have the support and resources they need to make the new system work.’

Brian Waters of the Boisot Waters Cohen Partnership: ‘Design was not mentioned in planning documents 10 years ago. Design has bubbled to the top and we shouldn’t underestimate the weight that government policy has.’

Chris Littlemore, chief exectuve of Archial: ‘The NPPF will inevitably generate uncertainty in the transition from old to new system. This in turn will potentially create many more judicial review challenges - certainly until the new system and local and neighbourhood plans become adopted and tested.

The NPPF will inevitably generate uncertainty in the transition from old to new system

The ‘presumption’ in favour of sustainable development is a clear message but, as we all know, when bombarded with all the counter influences of our ever more complex society, it will be the degree of presumption that holds the balance in a decision. How sustainable does an application have to be – what other factors will exert greater material influence over a decision process – whether local factors or regional and national expectation and control? The chance of decisions being taken that can be challenged legally is surely increased with the corresponding increase in risk for the developer and his team’.

Bill Dunster, prinicpal of ZEDfactory: ‘The shake-up looks very sensible and will require a step change improvement in the quality of local authority planning responses to sustainable development. This should help us deliver low carbon communities without first having to win over the assembled cordons of climate change sceptics misinformed by disinterested and unmotivated case officers. Let’s hope the policy definition of sustainable development isn’t too radioactive.’

Roger Tustain, director at Broadway Malyan: ‘A year ago, [planning minister] Greg Clark asked local councils to support economic growth and recovery by putting in place proactive development plans and to positively support sustainable development coming forward.

It is encouraging the Government has not been swayed by the misguided environmental and historic protection rhetoric

Sadly, local council response was extremely disappointing and the development industry has continued to be frustrated by local council delays, inactivity and unwillingness to accept the need for growth. However, the NPPF will now give the Government’s pro-growth ‘bark’ the bite it needs to get house building going again and local councils can no longer hide behind the excuse of uncertainty. It is encouraging that Government has not been swayed by the misguided environmental and historic protection rhetoric reported during last year’s consultation. The NPPF’s ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ correctly asserts that local plans should be prepared on the basis that objectively-assessed development needs should be met in full unless the impacts of doing so outweigh the benefits’.

Kathy MacEwen, head of planning and localism at DC CABE: ‘The nature of the planning system will always lead to tensions between those that want to develop and those that don’t. Our support and advice can help to mediate these tensions and deliver development which benefits the environment, economy and local communities.’

Alfred Munkenbeck of Munkenbeck+Partners Architects: ‘I cannot tell you how welcome this will be to architects who want to build.  This will reduce the time spent in planning because projects will get through with less re-submittals and less unnecessary red tape.  The planning process is receding back to the days when it entailed a sensible amount of interference and direction in development.  In my view they have still not gone quite far enough….  Architects who get paid hourly for getting permissions will be less able to bill time but architects who enjoy building projects will be able to get on with it more frequently.  

In my view they have still not gone quite far enough

Basically bureaucratic mission creep has been endemic.  This has been accelerating to the point where planners are all snarled up in complex processes and internal disagreements about arcane subjects which have no benefit to public interest… As planners invent more and more things to try to control, they complain more and more about being understaffed.  This cannot go on forever and, thank God, the current lot are trying to roll the system back to when it was sensible.

Anthony Hudson at Hudson Architects: ‘Reform is due and this goes in the right direction but remains flawed, and to think this will promote growth and hang so much on it is short sighted.

‘The major reason why we have no growth is lack of demand. We know there could be hundreds of thousands of permissions for houses but no-one is building due to that lack of demand, which in turn has arisen out of inflated house prices, a shortage of lending and an abiding lack of confidence in the economy. 

‘More emphasis on good design is welcome but I doubt local authorities will have the resources to support this and it will not come up high on their list of priorities.

The major reason why we have no growth is lack of demand

Government continually undermines those who will deliver this framework so I am not hopeful on this count. It will only work if it becomes a statutory duty for local authorities to have qualified people to assess design whether in house or outsourced.’

NPPF - key points

NPPF - key points

 

 

 

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