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01.04.16

MPs call for comprehensive overview of planning framework

The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) needs a comprehensive overview before the end of this Parliament, the Committee for Communities and Local Government (CCLG) said in a report published today.

The CCLG said that more ‘robust, objective and evidence-based policy monitoring, evaluation, and review’ of the NPPF is needed following a 2014 report by the previous committee, which said that the NPPF is failing to protect against unsustainable development.

Clive Betts MP, chair of the CCLG, said: “We welcome many of the proposals in the government’s consultation. However, particularly at a time of significant change for the planning and housing sectors, it’s important that people are reassured that the NPPF works effectively and that it supports sustainable development in their communities.

“The government needs to ensure there is confidence in the planning system by carrying out a comprehensive review of the NPPF by the end of this Parliament.”

The report says that the most recent consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy failed to provide sufficient scrutiny because it suffers from uncertainty about when its results will be implemented and that witnesses did not receive sufficient details about the proposals.

It also said that the span of the inquiry, from 7 December 2015 to 25 January 2016, did not allow witnesses enough time to prepare evidence because of the Christmas holidays and the fact that many of the organisations consulted were also scrutinising the Housing and Planning Bill.

Betts also called on the government to adopt the recommendation to make it legally binding for authorities to have a local plan, calling it “simply not good enough” that less than a third of authorities have an up-to-date plan.

The CCLG also say that the proposals in the most recent consultation are not enough to encourage the development of new settlements, especially given the requirement of local authorities to withhold some land from development to ensure they have a five-year supply of land in their local plans.

They also call for more detail about how new measures in the most recent Budget to speed up planning relate to the new proposals.

The LGA told the committee during an evidence session that they question the need for measures in the proposals to encourage local authorities to work more proactively to foster development.

Cllr Peter Box, housing and planning spokesman at the LGA, said: “Eighty four per cent of councils have already published a local plan which identifies land, including brownfield land, which is suitable for housing. Any automatic assumption that brownfield sites are suitable for residential use, without enabling councils to consider issues such as location and the capacity of supporting infrastructure, is therefore unnecessary.

“A huge amount of research and multiple consultations are needed to ensure local plans reflect local opinions and map out development in an area not just over the coming years but over decades. Councils have always said that the process of getting plans in place would take time and the most important thing is to get them right.”

He added that councils are as eager as the government to clear the planning permission backlog, which he said stands at 475,000 homes.

(Image c. Lynne Cameron from PA Wire)

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