We've been reviewing the NPPF to identify significant changes from current national policy. There are obvious differences in length (e.g. for conditions and planning obligations where we currently have 2 circulars - we may be moving to a single short paragraph!) and tone (the call for urgency and focus is clear in the text). Planning must move to performing a delivery role in order to facilitate growth - including responding to new opportunities and even in picking up unmet requirements in neighbouring areas.
However, it is quite difficult to pick out policy changes so it is to be hoped these will be made clear when the public consultation officially begins. However, these points have struck us as worthy of note (and bear with us as we continue our review);
I am grateful to Stephen Morgan of Landmark Chambers for this first one - he pointed me to the advice on page 15 that applications which conflict with up to date and NPPF compliant local plans "should be refused" with no reference made in the text to material considerations. This prompted me to do a search - and indeed the expression "material considerations" does not appear in NPPF. What are we meant to draw from that? Certainly the Localism Bill continues the expression in the expanded s 70 TCPA 1990 (which allows for finance considerations to feature).
Local plans must be succinct with additional DPDs and SPDs being the exception rather than the norm. SPDs must not add to the financial burdens on development. So where does that leave those policies we all know and love on public art? There is no mention of public art in the NPPF so local plans will presumably need to hang any policies on "environmental enhancement" (page 8). Moreover, the draft suggests that local authorities may wish to seek a certificate of conformity with NPPF - or prepare a new or revised plan. Given the clear presumption in favour of sustainable development, the spotlight will be on existing plans in terms of conformity.
Viability is to be part of the test of deliverability e.g. in site selection and when considering the overall policy burden on development.
Soundness is retained - but there is added a fourth requirement; "positively prepared" to signify that the local plan is about meeting needs.
In the housing context, there is support for commuted payments in relation to affordable housing " to improve and make effective use of the existing housing stock".
In relation to climate change, unless heritage assets would be damaged, well designed buildings with exceptional sustainability credentials should not be turned down because of any incompatibility with surrounding townscape, and projects for renewable/low carbon energy should not be asked to prove need or rationale for the chosen location.
If you spot more - let us know.