A revised edition of the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF] has been released. It includes several key changes that should be reflected in emerging Neighbourhood Development Plans:

  • United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development are added.

Paragraph 7 states that ‘the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development’ and now adds ‘At a similarly high level, members of the United Nations – including the United Kingdom – have agreed to pursue the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development in the period to 2030. These address social progress, economic well-being and environmental protection’.

  • The presumption in favour of sustainable development is extended.

The NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development at paragraph 11a has been extednded to be more explicit, shifting from ‘plans should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area, and be sufficiently flexible to adapt to rapid change’ to now read that ‘all plans should promote a sustainable pattern of development that seeks to: meet the development needs of their area; align growth and infrastructure; improve the environment; mitigate climate change (including by making effective use of land in urban areas) and adapt to its effects’.

  • Greater emphasis on is given to design quality, and a new requirement for councils to produce local design codes or guides.

The overarching social objective of the planning system (paragraph 8b) now includes encouraging ‘well-designed, beautiful and safe places’.

A new test that development should be well-designed is introduced in paragraph 133. This requires that new development should reflect local design policies and government guidance on design, taking into account any local design guidance and supplementary planning documents such as design guides and codes. Where the development fails to do so it should be refused permission.

Conversely, it says that ‘significant weight’ should be given to development that does reflects local design policies etc. and also to ‘outstanding or innovative designs which promote high levels of sustainability, or help raise the standard of design more generally in an area’. 

  • The concept of ‘beauty’ appears in the revised NPPF.

This is in response to the recommendations of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. MHCLG has said that it is a high-level statement of ambition rather than a policy test and that local planning authorities, communities and developers should work together to decide what beautiful homes, buildings and places should look like in their area. The intention is that this is reflected in local plans, neighbourhood plans, design guides and codes, taking into account government guidance on design.

  • Greater emphasis is given to the role of trees in new development.

The revision says that ‘planning policies and decisions should ensure that new streets are tree-lined, that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere in developments (such as parks and community orchards), that appropriate measures are in place to secure the long-term maintenance of newly-planted trees, and that existing trees are retained wherever possible’. [Paragraph 131]

  • Councils should ‘retain and explain’ statues rather than remove them

Deaking with the recent controversy over colonial and slavery links of historic personalities depicted in statues, new paragraph 198 states: ‘In considering any applications to remove or alter a historic statue, plaque, memorial or monument (whether listed or not), local planning authorities should have regard to the importance of their retention in situ and, where appropriate, of explaining their historic and social context rather than removal’.

  • Policy concerning planning and flood risk are clarified

Plans should manage any residual flood risk by using opportunities provided by new development and ‘improvements in green and other infrastructure to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding (making as much use as possible of natural flood management techniques as part of an integrated approach to flood risk management)’.

  • Rules tightened on when isolated homes in the countryside can be acceptable

In paragraph 80 in the rural housing section, it sets out the circumstances in which isolated homes in the countryside can be acceptable. Previously, it said such homes would be acceptable if the design was “truly outstanding or innovative” – now the word “innovative” has been removed.

Comment: These changes strenghten the ability of NDPs to address local design and clmate change issues.

Groups wanting to develop their own design guides or design codes can access ‘Technical Support’ via Locality, In this package professional urban designers work alongside groups, harnessing their ideas and local knowledge, to produce bespoke urban design guides or codes for potential development or regeneration sites. The Design Code package is available in addition to the usual Loclity NDP grants. You can find out more here:

The interactive copy of the new NPPF is available here:

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