The Department Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities are consulting on the Government’s proposed approach to updating the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which will run until 02 March 2023. It contains some significant changes and key areas of interest are summarised below:
- The test of soundness when examining Local Plans will be softened. Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) will no longer need to provide a strategy which “as a minimum” meets the area’s objectively assessed needs. A new caveat is likewise added to the presumption in favour of sustainable development allowing LPAs to not meet there needs in full where doing so would “mean building at densities significantly out of character with the existing area”. The requirement for LPAs to justify their strategy with reasonable alternatives and proportionate evidence is to be removed.
- The local housing need assessment would become advisory and additional emphasis is given to exceptional circumstances which justify an alternative approach to assessing housing need. LPAs would be able to establish a higher housing requirement than the identified housing need if it “includes provision for neighbouring areas, or reflects growth ambitions linked to economic development or infrastructure investment.”
- Green Belt boundaries will not be required to be reviewed and altered to meet the objectively assessed need for housing.
- LPAs will not be required to demonstrate a 5-year housing supply until the adopted Local Plan is over 5 years old, or where the strategic policies are found not to require updating. The LPAs 5-year housing supply will be able to take into account any previous under or over-supply of housing and the 5%, 10% and 20% buffers are to be removed.
- LPAs with Emerging Local Plans currently at an advanced stage will only need to demonstrate a four-year supply post publication of the revised NPPF for two years.
- If housing delivery falls below 75% the requirement over the previous three years, the presumption in favour of sustainable development would apply.
- Their will be an emphasis on promoting “beautiful” buildings and spaces. This will include the preparation of local design codes in line with a National Model Design Code.
- Provisions for approving repowering and life-extension of renewables sites and greater weight to supporting energy efficiency improvements of existing buildings.
If the changes are made as proposed, they will give LPAs greater flexibility in how they plan for their housing needs. This would likely to see a reduced number of sites being released from the Green Built as LPAs will no longer be forced to do so to meet their housing needs in full. The changes are intended to put greater emphasis on delivering development through allocated sites in Local Plans and reduce the opportunities for speculative windfall development on non-allocated sites.
The Government are intending to publish the changes at the end of March.