The Government has just released the text of its proposed presumption, timed perhaps to assist the debate in the Lords.
The principle is that development should be permitted unless the "adverse impacts … would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits". It says that the default position should be "yes" to development proposals.
This approach follows the theme in the informal draft NPPF. It makes it clear that plans will have to change, and will have to accommodate "objectively assessed" needs for development. If the presumption is pursued in this form then Localism and neighborhood plans will have to focus on how to grow rather than being able to descend into NIMBYism. Their role will be about the direction of change rather than whether there should be any; a stark contrast to present local and community expectations.
If the presumption becomes formal policy then securing consents should be easier. Ironically, for a number of years, as local plans are updated, the appeal route will be attractive if consent cannot be secured locally. Hopefully this will not be necessary. With the presumption hanging over authorities, cuts starting to bite and New Homes Bonus/rates retention considerations being legalized, attitudes will have to change even at reluctant authorities. We should see planning becoming more positive, although CIL and planning obligations will doubtlessly be used more inventively to ensure that communities benefit as much as possible from development.
However, it is unlikely that this is the last step in a journey that has moved the Government a long way, away from the pre-election position of locally determined neighborhoods choosing their own futures, to an adamantly pro-growth approach. Over the coming months we should expect to see a shift to provide greater protection for non-growth interests. The constraints of the environment, of historic interests, of the countryside and of good design will start to provide boundaries to growth. The challenge is to make sure that a sensible balance is struck. What is certain is that growth and development will now be given far greater weight in that balancing exercise than has been the case in recent years.
In immediate practical terms, although the presumption is only draft and should be given only limited weight it is a relevant material consideration. It will form part of the background to applications and appeals and should encourage the early grant of consent.