One year ago today, the Government introduced the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in a bid to achieve sustainable development but today experts have warned that more needs to be done to capitalise on the investment and speed up the process.
Published to provide a simplified version of the over 1,000 pages of guidance previously used to guide planning police, the NPPF informs policy across the country and is unashamedly pro-development.
Commenting on the significance of the document as it launched last year, Minister for Planning Greg Clark MP, noted that target imposed decisions on planning were stunting growth and promised that the NPPF sought to change that.
“Development that is sustainable should go ahead, without delay – a presumption in favour of sustainable development that is the basis for every plan, and every decision,” Clark said.
“In order to fulfil its purpose of helping achieve sustainable development, planning must not simply be about scrutiny. Planning must be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which we live our lives.
“This should be a collective enterprise. Yet, in recent years, planning has tended to exclude, rather than to include, people and communities.
“This National Planning Policy Framework changes that. By replacing over a thousand pages of national policy with around fifty, written simply and clearly, we are allowing people and communities back into planning.”
However, experts have called on the Government and local authorities to maintain momentum and reduce bureaucracy to accelerate growth.
Ed Cooke, Director of Policy at the British Council of Shopping Centres, said: “Through the NPPF, the Government has clearly demonstrated its support for a town centre first planning policy and, one year on, it’s now down to local authorities to maintain that momentum and get their local plans in place that confirm with the primacy of this approach.
“We’ve seen through our research into changes in retail development in the South West that retail space in town centres contracted by 12 per cent between 2005 and 2010 whilst over the same period the quantum of retail space outside town centres increased by almost 6 per cent.
“What we hope the NPPF will achieve is a mind-set shift towards encouraging long-term investment in our town centres through positive planning, although we are yet to see much evidence of this.”
Rejuvenating the British high street has been a focus of the Government for some time, with retail guru Mary Portas revealing the findings of her review last year and yesterday the Government selected the Association of Town & City Management to guide Portas Pilots and Town Teams for the next two years.
However Bob Robinson, Chairman at national planning consultancy DPP One, said that more needed to be done to encourage proposals.
“A year has passed since the publication of the NPPF and though there are an encouraging majority of officers taking on board the pro-growth messages contained within the framework, there are those elected members – particularly in rural authorities it must be said – who are continuing to use the localism agenda to frustrate development,” Robinson commented.
“As long as local authorities have the ability to interpret proposals between the NPPF on the one hand and localism on the other, there is a danger that the Government’s growth agenda could be lost in an ever growing backlog of appeals to the Planning Inspectorate.”