Thursday, 29 March 2012

NPPF – Initial impressions

Pressure of work has prevented my getting my head round the final version of the NPPF yet, but my colleague David Brock has put together some initial comments, and you can read these in his own blog. (See the link on the left-hand side bar of this page.)

As expected, all the existing Planning Policy Guidance Notes and Planning Policy Statements have been swept away, leaving nothing in their place other than the very abbreviated text of the NPPF itself, plus another 27 pages of technical guidance on Flood Risk and Minerals Policy. There’s no sign yet of the suite of supporting documents which it was hinted would accompany the NPPF. Maybe they are waiting until the dust has settled before issuing further guidance. There is a help line for local planning authorities (but not for the rest of us?) which may alert De-CLoG to the need for additional guidance to fill some of the gaps left by the withdrawal of previous ministerial advice on policy and procedures.

Only one circular has been withdrawn so far - 05/2005, dealing with planning obligations, which had been rendered somewhat out-of-date by recent legislative changes, including the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy. Other important circulars, including 11/95, 10/97, etc. are still in full force. So if Uncle Eric’s curse on wordy policy guidance applies only to the old PPGs and PPSs, then maybe some newly published circulars could fill the gap left by the removal of important technical detail which some of the withdrawn policy documents contained.

My focus in the immediate future, when I can tear myself away from my ever-increasing workload to read the NPPF properly, will be to try to understand the real policy implications of the document, compared with the policy regime which applied before its publication. The strange and totally inexplicable euphoria expressed by the Daily Torygraph, the National Trust and others is certainly not a reliable guide to the actual effect which the NPPF may have in policy terms. Their apparent joy at the publication of the final version of the document appears to me to be just as bizarre as their excoriation of the original draft. One is driven to the conclusion that they simply don’t understand the planning system!


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