Planning rules under review

nppfInappropriate housing is being imposed upon some communities as a result of speculative planning applications, according to a report on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

?Operation of the NPPF’ was compiled by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee and claims that provisions in the NPPF relating to the viability of housing land are leading to inappropriate development.

The report claims that this is a consequence of local authorities failing to prepare five year housing supplies, and was a major source of communities’ disquiet with the NPPF. Kirklevington and Castleleavington Parish Council in the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees are cited within the report as an example, as developers had been allowed to

“ignore brownfield sites and other areas in the Borough and instead to put in successful planning applications for excessive numbers of houses in the Yarm and Kirklevington area.”

The report says these loopholes must be closed, and that there also needs to be clearer guidance about how housing needs should be assessed.

In addition, the Select Committee recommends that local authorities should be encouraged to review their green belts as part of the local planning process.

The report also makes several other recommendations based on improvements it claims can be made to the NPPF, such as amending the framework to make clear that all sites with planning permission should be counted towards the five year supply of housing land. It says that taking this approach would stop speculative developers challenging the validity of the five year supply on the grounds of viability or because sites with permission would take longer than five years to build out.

It is also recommended that the the Department for Communities and Local Government establish a fund to enable the remediation of brownfield sites, and set out a prospectus for how this fund will operate

This has gained support from Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which claims that the Select Committee is playing an important role in reviewing the NPPF almost three years after its launch. Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS, said:

“The recommendation of a framework to evaluate the operation and impact of the NPPF over the longer term is crucial if we are to get away from the acrimonious ?greenbelt vs brownfield’ debate and a brownfield remediation fund will help make more brownfield sites viable.”

According to the Select Committee, planning is a

“fundamental responsibility of councils” and so should be handled with more care than current legislation warrants. The report states:

“We understand the financial pressures councils are under, but councils should treat planning as a front line service and not see it as an easy target for spending reductions. In particular, it is vital to the future sustainability of our villages, towns and cities, that councils ensure resources are channelled not only into development control but also into proactive plan making.”

This attitude has gained support from the construction industry, which relies heavily on accurately planned pipelines of work. Commenting on the recommendations of the report, Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said:

“The Committee is right to stress the importance of maintaining adequate levels of investment in planning departments. Although councils are under a great deal of financial pressure, with more cuts to come, there a

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