The NPPF does not give councils enough flexibility

We need to build new homes. However, the housing requirements in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) mean local authorities are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Rather than empowering councils to make decisions about development based on local conditions and incorporating the needs of local people, the NPPF is a centrally administered tool that restrains the capacity for local authorities to act in the interests of their communities.

On the one hand they are being asked to meet ambitious housing supply targets, while on the other they are being asked to protect green belt land and other green and open spaces from development.

LGiU research, conducted on behalf of the National Trust, found that over three-fifths of councils disagreed or strongly disagreed that the introduction of the NPPF has had a positive impact on their ability to deliver a Local Plan that reflects local concerns and priorities.  Furethermore, two-thirds (66 per cent) of disagreed or strongly disagreed that Neighbourhood Planning will have a positive impact on their authority’s ability to deliver development that reflects local concerns and priorities.

It was widely felt that Green Belt would be released for development, while brownfield and other sites would be passed over as “unviable”. 51% of respondents with green-belt in their area said that they felt it “likely” or “very likely” that it would be released for development in the next five years.

The National Trust’s analysis of other government planning guidance shows that pressure on local authorities to approve development on green spaces is likely to increase.  There is likely to be even greater opportunity for developers to override the local planning system, as well as greater incentives to develop such as the New Homes Bonus.

LGiU spoke to a number of officers who were also concerned at the lack of cooperation between councils. Despite the Duty to Cooperate built in to the NPPF, some called for a wider regional approach to allow for greater strategic planning.

To build enough new homes there will be some difficult decisions. Bur overly prescriptive and centrally administered frameworks play in to the hands of developers, without taking local context into account. Local authorities need the trust and flexibility to work together and devise responsive, local solutions.

The research was featured in today’s Guardian, Telegraph, Times, FT and Daily Mail.

Local authorities responded to the survey on the basis of anonymity.

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