NPPF 2021 may give a key role to neighbourhood planning groups in influencing the design of new development through local design codes. Other proposed changes include clarification to emphasise that neighbourhood plans can allocate large sites, and a tightening of the rules governing when isolated homes in the countryside can be acceptable.

The move to improve the design of new development comes in response to the findings of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. Its final report, called Living with Beauty, was published in January 2020, and made a series of recommendations on improving design standards. In response MHCLG propose changes to the NPPF including:

  • changing the overarching social objective of the planning system to include the fostering of “well-designed, beautiful and safe places”. Previously it called for a “a well-designed and safe built environment”
  • a new paragraph (133), which says that “development that is not well designed should be refused, especially where it fails to reflect local design policies and government guidance on design, taking into account any local design guidance and supplementary planning documents which use visual tools such as design guides and codes”.
  • Giving significant weight to “development which reflects local design policies and government guidance on design, taking into account any local design guidance and supplementary planning documents which use visual tools such as design guides and codes’
  • Support for “outstanding or innovative designs which promote high levels of sustainability, or help raise the standard of design more generally in an area, so long as they fit in with the overall form and layout of their surroundings”.
  • a new paragraph (130) requiring 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 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. Applicants and local planning authorities should work with local highways officers and tree officers to ensure that the right trees are planted in the right places”.

In other NPPF changes it is proposed to:

Adjust the presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that it requires plan-makers to “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”.

Require plans to 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).

Limit the the use of Article 4 Directions to remove national permitted development rights related to conversions to housing, so that they are used only “where this is essential to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts” (or, alternatively “where this is necessary in order to protect an interest of national significance”), and so they are “in all cases” applied “to the smallest geographical area possible”.

Amend paragraph 65 to require that “where major development involving the provision of housing is proposed, planning policies and decisions should expect at least ten per cent of the “total number” of homes to be available for affordable home ownership. This is to address confusion as to whether the ten per cent requirement applies to all units or the affordable housing contribution.

In the context of recent moves to remove monuments and memorials possibly associated with slavery and colonialism, introduce a new paragraph (197), that says “in considering any applications to remove or alter a historic statue, plaque or memorial (whether listed or not), local planning authorities should have regard to the importance of retaining these heritage assets and, where appropriate, of explaining their historic and social context rather than removal”.

Amend the circumstances in which isolated homes in the countryside can be acceptable, which previously included instances in which a design was “truly outstanding or innovative” to remove the word “innovative”.

The draft revised NPPF can be found here: NPPF Revisions 2021

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