NPPF: default 'yes' to development removed

A policy for a default 'yes' to development proposals unless they are unsustainable has been removed from the final national planning policy framework (NPPF).

The amendment responds to campaigners calling for the framework to give a better balance economic, environmental and social needs. 

The NPPF retains the presumption in favour of sustainable development that applies where local plan is absent, silent or out of date. This applies unless any adverse impacts of a development would "significantly and demonstrably" outweigh the benefits.

But the final policy omits the line contained in the draft that said decision takers should assume that the default answer to development proposal is "yes", except where this would compromise key sustainable development principles.

The government has also sought to define sustainable development more clearly, after lobby groups and two commons select committees criticised the government’s draft NPPF for being too vague.

The document now refers explicitly to the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy as well as the United Nations Brundtland definition previously used.

Planning minister Greg Clark said the NPPF makes it "crystal clear" that sustainable development embraces social and environmental as well as economic objectives and does so in a balanced way.

The government has deleted the draft line that said significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth.

It now stresses that the economic, social and environmental roles are "mutually dependent" and should be "sought jointly and simultaneously through the planning system".

Clark said that the policy means is there is a test as to whether, in effect, it would be in the public interest to approve an application.

It is not sustainable to have a shopping development outside a town centre, or development in the green belt, he told MPs.

Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn welcomed the reference to five principles of sustainable development but questioned who decides what is in public interest especially when a planning application goes to appeal.

Green groups welcomed the inclusion of the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it was "very reassured" by the move.

The next issue of Planning, to be published on Thursday 5 April, will contain in-depth analysis of the revised NPPF, including the results of an online survey of practitioners’ views on the reforms. Details of how you can take part in the survey will be released tomorrow.

The National Planning Policy Framework is available here.

NPPF live blog: Click through for all the latest developments as the government unveils the final draft of the national planning policy framework (NPPF).

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