10th August 2018 - Guest Blog by Bob Pritchard, Partner at Weightmans LLPPublish date: 10/08/2018
July saw the publication of the first revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) since its introduction in 2012. There are no real surprises as the big policy changes have been trailed well in advance of its introduction. For example, the standard methodology for calculating housing need was first mooted last year and has already been shaping the approach taken by LPAs to local plan production with a number of authorities opting to adjust their housing numbers to reflect the anticipated guidance.
Whilst many of the key policy tenets in the all-new NPPF are carried through from its previous iteration, there are some innovations. For example, it will be interesting to see what use is made of the new power to alter detailed green belt boundaries through neighbourhood plans. Advocates of 'wider than local' planning will be encouraged to see the policy support offered to the formulation of spatial development strategies by combined authorities or elected Mayors – although these will have to be promoted in the continued absence of a national spatial strategy for England. It is also encouraging to see an explicit reference to Garden City principles when it comes to planning for new settlements.
Planning officers across the country will be busy trying to work out what the revised wording means in practice and no doubt will be turning to their colleagues in legal services to seek a view. However, it will not be possible to provide an authoritative view until the courts have had the opportunity to get to grips with the new guidance. This will not be a quick job – it was 5 years before the Supreme Court were able to rule on the meaning of paragraphs 14 and 49 of the old NPPF. So by the time we have some clarity on what all of this means it may be time for NPPF mark 3 to make an appearance.