The NPPF – what we know so far
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It has been a busy 2018 for housing policy with lots of announcements already, some more cosmetic than others.
DCLG has been renamed the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG); Dominic Raab – who I used to work with in Opposition – has been appointed Housing Minister (expect efficiency and a no nonsense style); and Sajid Javid has launched Homes England to replace the Homes and Communities Agency.
Change is gonna come
But while the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) keeps its name, expect the most significant changes to be carried through in this document.
Last year’s White Paper ‘Fixing our Broken Housing Market’ confirmed that the NPPF would be amended and civil servants have now let it be known that they expect to consult by the end of March.
This date ties in neatly with the Government’s expectation of when the new simplified housing need calculations will apply.
A number of NPPF changes have been trailed in the press so far, including the Government’s green agenda, flooding and noise complaints.
There are likely to be other significant changes, so it is vital that stakeholders respond to this consultation.
Green Future not “green crap”
Expect changes in the NPPF on the environment as the Conservative Party seeks to claw back some of its younger voters.
Launching A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment earlier in January, the Prime Minister has said she will “maintain and strengthen” environmental protections in the NPPF.
The NPPF consultation is likely to look at requiring planning authorities to ensure bio-diversity net gains across their areas and using data to support development which brings wider environmental improvement.
A difference in tone at least from her predecessor’s reported dismissal of “green crap.” How tough the measures are remains to be seen.
Green Belt tightens
Any developers wanting more freedom to build on Green Belt will be disappointed.
Not only is Dominic Raab a ferocious protector of Green Belt, but the Government has promised to enhance Green Belt to make this land ‘breathing space’ for cities and towns.
Floods and SuDS
Expect new measures in relation to ancient woodlands and grasslands, high flood risk areas and top quality agricultural land.
The Government has also said it will amend Planning Practice Guidance to clarify construction and ongoing maintenance arrangements for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) in new developments.
Further down the line there are likely to be changes to the NPPF and Building Regulations to encourage SuDS, though this may not be included in the changes to be consulted on in March.
Music to their ears
The Government has said the NPPF will be amended to include the ‘agent of change’ principle, making developers responsible for identifying and resolving any sound pollution issues and thus pre-empt any noise complaints from new residents moving into new developments.
The change is expected to benefit music venues, community and sports clubs who have responded positively to the news.
Ring out the bells
This change will also protect churches whose neighbours have sometimes succeeded in dampening the noise, if not the enthusiasm, of local campanologists. Church bell ringing, too will now be protected.
This article will be kept up to date as further announcements are made.
Robert is a non-practising corporate and commercial solicitor with a background working as a justice policy researcher for David Cameron's Parliamentary Resources Unit. He was a candidate in the 2016 London Assembly elections.