NPPF leading to 'inappropriate' development, MPs warn

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is leading to communities being subject to inappropriate and unwanted housing development and is giving insufficient protection to town centres, according to a report by MPs.

Parliament: select committee report on NPPF published today
Parliament: select committee report on NPPF published today

The report, published today by the communities and local government select committee, welcomes the simplification that the NPPF has brought to the planning system. The committee recommends that the NPPF should not be withdrawn, but suggests that a number of changes should be made to the document and the way it is applied.

The MPs' report warns of a number of emerging concerns. It says that the NPPF is not preventing unsustainable development in some places, that inappropriate housing is being imposed upon some communities as a result of speculative planning applications, and adds that town centres are being given insufficient protection against the threat of out of town development.

According to the report, provisions in the NPPF relating to the viability of housing land are leading to inappropriate development. "These loopholes must be closed," the report says.

The committee said that is concerned that communities are at risk of unsustainable development due to the granting of planning permission to substantial housing development on the edge of towns and villages as a result of "speculative" applications by developers. This problem was particularly acute when a local plan or five year supply of housing land was not in place, according to the report.

It recommends that the government introduce a statutory requirement for councils to get local plans adopted within three years of legislation being enacted. "All councils must move much more quickly to get an adopted plan in place: this will give communities increased protection against the threat of undesirable development," the report says.

The report recommends that changes should be made to ensure that the NPPF gives greater protection to town centres. The committee calls for an end to permitted development allowing shops and buildings used for financial and professional services to become homes without planning permission, "a policy which is undermining the local planning process".

Select committee chair Clive Betts said that the NPPF has brought "welcome simplification" to the planning system, but added that the government "must strengthen the planning framework to tackle emerging concerns about inappropriate and unsustainable development".

He added: "The same weight needs to be given to environmental and social factors as to the economic dimension to ensure the planning system delivers the sustainable development promised by the NPPF."

Planning minister Brandon Lewis said that the government's planning reforms are working, "as 240,000 badly needed new homes received planning permission in the last 12 months".

He added: "The simple way for councils to send speculative developers packing is to have an up-to-date local plan - 80 per cent of councils now have a published local plan and slow-coach councils should be held to account by local voters for dragging their feet."

The committee's report also recommends that clearer guidance is needed about how housing need should be assessed and that local authorities should be encouraged to review their green belts as part of the local planning process.

The committee also says that more homes should be built on brownfield land, but adds that it is not convinced that the chancellor's local development orders policy will do enough to stimulate activity.

It calls on the Department for Communities and Local Government to establish a remediation fund for brownfield sites.

The report is available here.

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