This is entry number 242, published on 20 May 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today’s entry reports on Localism Bill progress and the publication of a suggested National Planning Policy Framework.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week the government devoted two days to considering further amendments to the Localism Bill and then voting on whether the Bill, as amended should be passed. Not surprisingly, given the government's majority, all the government amendments were accepted, none of the backbench or opposition amendments were accepted, and the Bill was passed. The two relevant editions of Hansard can be found here and here.

As reported last week, the government tabled 273 amendments to the Bill, all of which have now been made. The most controversial, and the only one to be voted on, was the proposed new clause to allow government funding or the Community Infrastructure Levy to be taken into account when considering planning applications.

This amendment is mainly to ensure that it is not unlawful to take the New Homes Bonus, a financial incentive to local authorities for new housing, into account. The history of this amendment can be traced back to a legal opinion obtained by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and reported here.

The Bill now goes to the House of Lords where the Second Reading debate is provisionally to take place on 7 June. The Bill will be reprinted with new page numbering and clause numbering to take account of all the amendments made this week.

UPDATE: this is now available. Get used to some new clause numbers, e.g. the duty to co-operate is clause 95 rather than clause 90 now.

Eleven votes were held on the Bill, as follows:

  • Division 273 - that ability to dispense with legislation that affects the general power of competence is limited in scope - Labour front bench - defeated  
  • Division 274 - mayors elected by first past the post - Conservative back bench - defeated  
  • Division 275 - removal of ability to force councils to change to mayor and cabinet arrangement - Labour back bench - defeated  
  • Division 276 - new clause that financial considerations can be taken into account when considering planning applications - coalition front bench - passed  
  • Division 277 - new clause to preserve retail diversity - Labour front bench - defeated  
  • Division 278 - making change of use to betting ofice more difficult - Labour front bench - defeated  
  • Division 279 - Labour version of the duty to co-operate - Labour front bench - defeated  
  • Division 280 - that boroughs vote on MDCs - Labour back bench - defeated  
  • Division 281 - that clause 130 (flexible tenancies) be removed - Labour front bench - defeated 
  • Division 282 - that clause 130 be amended so as not to apply to existing tenants - Labour front bench - defeated  
  • Division 283 - Third Reading - passed  

One of the changes that was made to the Bill was allow people who work in an area to join a neighbourhood forum to develop neighbourhood-level planning policies. Yesterday the government announced eight pilot business areas that will be asked to prepare neighbourhood development plans. They are:

  • Milton Keynes Central  
  • Bankside, home of the Tate Modern  
  • South Bank and Waterloo  
  • The West End of London, including Oxford Street and Regent Street  
  • Aldershot Urban Extension  
  • Liverpool Innovation Park  
  • Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead  
  • Trafford Park, Manchester.  

National Planning Policy Framework proposal published

Government planning policy is currently embodied in a series of Planning Policy Statements and Planning Policy Guidance, which can be found here. The government wants to simplify this into a single document - the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It is difficult to see how they are going to put those several gallons into a pint pot, but here is some progress that has been made. Note that National Policy Statements for major infrastructure are expected to sit alongside and outside this framework.

In December, they commissioned a group of four planning practitioners (Pete Andrews, Simon Marsh, Gary Porter and John Rhodes) to advise them on what the NPPF should contain. In February the government launched a general consultation exercise on the same subject and received over 3000 responses.

Today, the 'practitioners advisory group' has published its proposal for a draft NPPF, which can be found here. The government is not intending to adopt this unchanged, it will produce its own draft for consultation in July. Nevertheless this draft will be persuasive and gives an idea of what the NPPF will look like.

At 55 pages it is a few orders of magnitude shorter than all the PPSs and PPGs. Significantly, it seeks to embody the 'presumption in favour of sustainable development', which some had argued should be enshrined in the Localism Bill. The relevant text is as follows:

Applying the presumption in favour of sustainable development in this context will mean:

  • local plans should be prepared on the basis that objectively assessed development needs are met;  
  • development proposals that accord with these plans should be promptly approved; and  
  • where planning policies are out of date or a plan is silent or unclear on a particular development, approval should be granted.

The development plan is clearly being put at the heart of the planning system. Furthermore, the draft says that local authorities should each produce a single Local Plan for their area, effectively reversing the changes introduced by the Planning and Conpulsory Purchase Act 2004. The draft does not involve a formal consultation process as such, but no doubt it will generate much comment and debate.