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Built Environment Info-Site
Apr 25, 2012
By Richard Wilson Ecology http://richardwilsonecology.wordpress.com/
Well, after a break from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and having written two previous post-publication blogs on the subject (see here and here), it is high time to conclude my thoughts…at least for now.
This Friday will be exactly one month since the NPPF was published. Based on statistics published on the Department of Communities and Local Government website, approximately 40,000 planning applications will have been submitted during this period. That is a lot of decisions to be made. In fact just under 240 decisions per minute. Just as well they reduced the amount of text then!
Of course, the above figures include private extensions, changes in use and other minor elements of the planning process which will barely touch on the NPPF so it isn’t really fair to infer that such a large number of decisions have already been made and taken in to account the NPPF in any detail. But in all seriousness, what is the outcome of the NPPF and how has it been used (if it has), in the context of nature conservation and biodiversity, in the first few weeks of its existence?
Well, to summarise the previous two blogs, the main topics of discussion were:Brundtland definition of sustainability: now in; but not contained within the policy section;Brownfield sites: effect on the Priority Habitat (Open Mosaic Habitats) and confusion over terminology;Guidance documents: retention of Planning Policy Statement 9′s supporting guidance and Government Circular 06/ 2005 on biodiversity and geology; andPresumption: the use of the word and its meaning in law.
Already, there has been evidence of confusion and from one prominent individual. His photo garnishes the ministerial forward on page ii of the NPPF…yes, Greg Clark. The Minister for Planning. The author. The top dog. Where the buck stops. Except, that it would seem that the buck has been passed on.
Speaking to the British Property Federation in the second half of April, Greg Clark stated that the NPPF is a:
“…framework for local decision-taking” and it is for councils to make judgements on its interpretation.
So it would seem that it is entirely up to local authorities to make local decisions for local people. And just in case a planning inspector disagreed with a local decision, Greg has helpfully added that he’ll be keeping a close eye on such behaviour to ensure it doesn’t happen. If this is confusing, then helpfully, the DCLG has provided a helpline to help local people make their local decision. Except, in a bizarre twist, the Chief Planner has confirmed that the helpline is not there for local (or national) people to get help about the policy. So in what circumstances would you ring it?
I imagine that this is all getting quite tedious by now; the message is consistently inconsistent, there will inevitably be confusion and legal challenges. Just as well then that the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) has produced a checklist and an “about the NPPF” page; except, when you read it, it is not particularly helpful unless you are a local authority looking to ensure that its Local Development Document (LDD) is aligned with the NPPF…but hang on a second…surely local people make the local decisions; so if they decide that their LDD is not going to be aligned to the NPPF, what then? The planning inspector daren’t raise this as his/ her boss is keeping a close eye on him/ her to make sure that the local decision is respected. And Greg has said that it is up to councils to make the judgement. And no one can ring the helpline as it is not there to get help. Hmmm…are you thinking what I’m thinking?
I have a cunning plan...
Richard Wilson Ecology
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