Wednesday, 27 July 2011

NPPF – the published consultation version

Following the PAG’s ‘semi-official’ suggested draft and the later leaked draft, we now have the government’s considered consultation draft of the National Planning Policy Framework.

As I predicted, this is certainly stirring people up, but I propose to hold my fire until I have had a chance to look at it more thoroughly.

What I have not yet had time to research is how topics not covered by the NPPF are to be dealt with in future. Will there really be a gaping void in policy guidance where detailed advice was previously given in Planning Policy Guidance notes or in Planning Policy Statements which has not been carried over into the NPPF? And what is to be the fate of numerous circulars, some of them of considerable practical importance? Are they to be withdrawn, or will we still have the essential guidance which they give on a number of detailed topics?

My own guess is that, by one means or another, a way will be found of preserving a significant part of this advice, even though ministers will crow about their shiny new and thoroughly streamlined National Planning Policy Framework.

If I am wrong about this, I still propose to preserve my copies of the existing Circulars, PPGs and PPSs on the basis that whilst some or all of the Circulars may be withdrwn and certainly all of the existing PPGs and PPSs, the underlying principles which informed them should still apply as a matter of commonsense, even though one may not be able to quote directly from them in planning inquiries in the way one did before.

If there really is a policy void left by the changeover to the NPPF, I strongly suspect that that void will in practice be filled by the courts, who may well expound principles in the practical application of planning legislation which is very similar to those with which we have become familiar through the existing suite of ministerial policy guidance.

Unless something dramatic provokes me to do so, I don’t propose to return to this topic for a little while. I think we all need to go away and wrap a wet towel round our heads in order to work out precisely what the NPPF does and does not contain, particularly the latter.



  1. I spoke to DCLG yesterday and the intention seems to be to have a 'Practice Guide' accompaniment. This is likely to be in a similar format to the PPS5 Practice Guide.

    It all therefore seems a little pointless!


    Joe Ridgeon

  2. Martin the government had previously stated that it would replace all policy circulars. But in an interview with the FT (25/7)at the launch Greg Clark said that a full replacement of all circulars in a similarly slimmed down form would be a follow up exercise. This is why I think the final version - unlike the leaked version - omits the slimmed down rules on acceptable conditions. It is confusing though what will and will not be revoked once the final NPPF is published, we dont know what we should be commenting on.

    I have done a by PPG/PPS comparison of the practitioners draft (except the advert PPG)and as the draft hasnt changed much the analysis is pretty much the same

    Will be doing a 'top 10' of the main changes in the final version shortly.

  3. The slimmed down version is less than helpful to the degree that as long as Local Plans are in general conformity with this undemanding document, local planning authorities could write their own plans on the basis of the existing PPGs/PPSs which provide them with a more detailed steer on how to write their own policies. So, don't throw your current PPGs/PPSs away - even if they are no longer regarded as national policy they could be quite reasonably used as useful guidance for plans and useful material considerations for development management.

    Be imaginative - the NPPF is not good enough on its own!