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Government publishes updated planning guidance

The industry has welcomed updated planning guidance published by the government yesterday (6 February) but warns that further revisions will be needed before long

Coming as a result of the government’s ‘red tape challenge’, which committed to reducing the 6,000 pages of ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’, the new National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG), is aimed at streamlining planning policy.

But the industry fears the new guidance will face a further shake-up once the Housing Standards Review has been completed.

The Design Council has said that it is ‘crucial this happens sooner rather than later to ensure that house builders are given sufficient support to deliver the homes that the UK needs, of the right quality, in the right places at the right time’.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) agreed that further review and reform is needed, suggesting that this should take place after the new guidance has bedded in. RTPI president Cath Ranson said: ‘There would be value in a structured review when practitioners have fully digested the guidance suite as a whole, understand how the guidance is working on the ground and have been given the opportunity to report back on where revisions would be valuable.’

The guidance reaffirms commitments to protect green belt land, stating that the housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt.

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has criticised the new guidance for its lack of emphasis on the principles of garden cities. They criticise the lack of ‘high level guidance from government’ on how large scale new communities along garden city principles might be created.

The reforms encourage the re-use of empty and under-used buildings, supporting change of use amendments brought in last year.

Further comments

Anna Scott-Marshall, head of external affairs, RIBA

‘We welcome today’s publication of the revised National Planning Policy Guidance. Significant improvements have been made during the drafting of the guidance and we are pleased that the recommendations and advice of organisations such as RIBA and the Design Council have been taken forward – this has strengthened the guidance on design considerably.

‘There are however, still some areas where improvements will need to be made. The housing design section, for instance is inadequate and we still have concerns over the government’s approach to viability, which remains skewed towards short-term financial interests above the need for sustainable growth. It will be important that the Government undertake the annual revisions that they have committed to and continue to revisit the guidance to make improvements.’

Clare Devine, director of the Cabe team at Design Council

‘The new National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) has not disappointed and is a huge achievement which will enable more people to participate in, and benefit from the planning system. This is an iterative process, and all users should take responsibility to offer feedback on the new platform. We will be offering additional support to users by reviewing our own best practice guidance to assess where updates or additions are needed to support the new NPPG.’

Cath Ranson, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute

‘The RTPI is pleased that the government has launched the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) website. It is a significant step forward in making planning guidance easier and simpler for practitioners and the public.  Ministers and officials should be congratulated in guiding through such an important project so efficiently.

‘The publication of the guidance gives greater certainty to planners and communities which will help both deliver the high quality development and sustainable growth that England needs.

‘Government should maintain a clear demarcation between policy that is contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and practice which is in the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG). Government must also resist the temptation to change policy by making changes to the NPPG rather than the NPPF.

‘The RTPI thinks that there would be value in a structured review when practitioners have fully digested the guidance suite as a whole, understand how the guidance is working on the ground and have been given the opportunity to report back on where revisions would be valuable.’

Hugh Ellis, head of policy, Town and Country Planning Association

‘The TCPA recognises the importance of the government’s publication of the final version of national planning policy guidance to complement the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The TCPA is particularly pleased to see a new section on health and planning which identifies the key role of spatial planning on people’s health and wellbeing. The association has been championing reuniting the public health and planning movement for the last few years, working closely with local authorities and health providers. The new guidance also places a welcome emphasis on the need to consider the objectives of the Climate Change Act in planning decisions.

‘However, the TCPA had campaigned hard for further guidance on the creation of large scale new communities along garden city principles to ensure we deliver the sustainable, inclusive and beautiful places of the future; but while the NPPF advocates garden city principles, there remains no high level guidance from government on how the principles would be delivered. The guidance contrasts between an emphasis on processes, such as the duty to cooperate, and the absence of guidance for outcomes, such as those on garden city principles.

‘The TCPA also remains concerned that despite our powerful research on the relationship between planning and poverty that argued for the rediscovery of social justice and equality in planning practice, that the NPPG contains no content on the broad issues of equalities. This is despite the fact, for example, that important guidance on access and design has been cancelled.’

Previous story (AJ 20.03.13)

Budget 2013: Government vows more planning reform

The government has renewed its commitment to make the planning process simpler

In the budget document which was presented to the House of Commons today (20 March), the government has vowed to continue with the reform of the planning system to ensure the regime supports both growth and housing need.

Significantly reduced planning guidance will be published this summer, reiterating pledges made last October by David Cameron to streamline 6,000 pages of ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’ .

Local areas will be required to put in place bespoke pro-growth planning policies and delivery arrangements, as part of new Local Growth Deals, in response to Lord Heseltine’s review.

Planning constraints have been blamed for hindering the number of new homes being built.

Government has blamed the judicial review process for delaying both infrastructure and housing projects. Results of the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on shortening time limits for bringing a planning judicial review will be published in the spring, and further plans to streamline the judicial review process will be developed by summer 2013.

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