How the NPPF revisions would change the system part 1: sustainable development

In the first of a new series of briefings on the NPPF revisions, we summarise the main changes to the definition of, and the presumption in favour of, sustainable development, proposed by the document. And we examine responses to those proposed changes from key sector organisations.

Development: presumption incorporates small but significant wording changes from the original
Development: presumption incorporates small but significant wording changes from the original


The section on ‘achieving sustainable development’ outlines the government’s view of what sustainable development constitutes, as well as explaining the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The presumption incorporates some small but significant wording changes from the original. For example, whereas the existing plan calls for "local plans" to meet objectively-assessed needs, the draft revision states that "strategic plans" should provide for objectively assessed needs. The revised wording also states that such plans should "as a minimum" provide for objectively assessed needs for housing and other development, "as well as any needs that cannot be met within neighbouring areas".

The footnote (footnote 7 in the draft), which sets out constraints that would limit the application of the presumption, is amended from the existing version and is presented in the draft as a definitive list. It adds "irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodland; aged or veteran trees" to the list in the original version.


The RTPI questions why green belts are still included in the list of constraints in the footnote. Green belts are tools for city-regional growth management, it says, not designations based on the attributes of land, like all the other constraints listed in the footnote. WIthout a national review of green belt policy, the inclusion of green belts in the footnote is "incongruous" and "could contribute to public misunderstanding of, and even disenchantment with, the policy", the RTPI says.

The institute also raises a concern that the prescriptiveness of footnote 7 - by specifying that policies in development plans are not included in its list of constraints and policies, which provide protection in the event of the presumption in favour of sustainable development - "disproportionately reduces weight afforded to policies at local level, which should enhance and protect areas of the built and natural environment". The wording of the footnote, by excluding development plan policies from the list of constraints to be applied, could conflict with the statutory status of the development plan as the starting point for decision-making, the response says.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) notes that the footnote is now a definitive list of policies that may provide a strong reason for restricting the scale, type or distribution of development in the plan area. "We support the clarity that this brings," it says. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), by contrast, calls for the footnote to be amended to also include local wildlife and landscape resources as well as productive farmland.

Return to introduction page How the draft NPPF revisions would change the system: the Planning briefing

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