The planning inspectorate has issued guidance to its officers to start viewing the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a ‘material consideration’ in their decisions
The move has angered opponents of the proposed super-slim planning document - currently out for consultation and not due to come into force until later this year - which they claim threatens the greenbelt with its presumption in favour of sustainable development.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, which recently launched the Hands Off Our Land campaign to urge ministers to rethink the proposals, a National Trust spokesman said: ‘So much for consultation; there is no room left for manoeuvre, which makes us more determined that this document gets the public debate and proper scrutiny it deserves.
‘Not only does the process seem to be flawed, the framework is wrong in its overall tone: planning should not be used as a tool to deliver economic growth, and as it stands will result in inappropriate development which will scar the landscape for ever.’
The planning inspectorate revealed the fresh guidance on its website last week, outlining that the draft NPPF gave ‘a clear indication of the government’s direction of travel’ and was therefore ‘capable of being a material consideration’.
In response to the revelations planning expert Brian Waters said that although it ‘looked wrong’ that the NPPF was able to be considered despite not being officially in force, the proposed framework was more about explaining a change in governmental philosophy rather than a detailed planning document. He added that the much-publicised opposition stance based on the threat to the countryside was ‘horseshit’.
He told the AJ: ‘The NPPF’s potential threat to the countryside is wildly exaggerated by people with a vested interest making a lot of noise.
‘The inspector has issued this direction, but how much weight is given to the NPPF as a material consideration still depends on the case. The NPPF is a policy document’