The Federation of Master Builders

National Planning Policy Framework Revamp

Published date: 04 April 2018

Theresa May recently announced she was making changes to the NPPF (the government’s planning policies). The main idea behind these plans is to tackle the housing crisis and achieve sustainable development. She has offered new and alternative ideas, with the proposed changes aimed to be considered by the government over the next two months. Here is a summary of the new NPPF proposals, which could affect the way SME housebuilders operate.

Sustainable development

The revised NPPF document main aim is to improve sustainable development. The government want to make sure that by carefully planning projects, the environment, society, the economy or future generations will not be negatively affected. This means all possible developments and decisions should take an active role in ensuring that projects are working towards achieving sustainability.

It's also been put forward that local planning authorities should ensure that at least 20% of the sites identified for housing in their plans are of 0.5ha or less. This is to ensure as many homes as possible are built to improve the housing supply, which will likely finish quicker and boost capacity. However, the government is also interested in promoting medium sized sites and are deliberating on whether this new policy should just apply to brownfield lands. (Previously developed land that is not in use)

Town Centres

The government proposes to improve all town centres and recognise they’re an important part of communities. They suggest planning policies should identify a location in town even if it’s not quite ready to be used or hasn’t been vacated yet. This way developments can be planned for at least ten years ahead.

Greenbelt Land

The government highlighted the importance of Green Belt land (Wild or undeveloped land that should be not used for urban development) that must not be altered unless in exceptional circumstances. However, they’re looking into the possibility of using brownfield land within Green Belts for affordable housing. Green Belt land should be enhanced and well maintained. Renewable energy projects, graveyards or allotments may be used on Green Belt Land.

Improved standard of Design

The NPPF draft also focuses on the improvement of new designs, which will improve the entire process by creating a clear design vision. By using assessment frameworks and pre-application discussion processes, this will enable an efficient and high standard of work. Additionally, the government argue this will help new and creative architects whose unique work will be noticed and will improve the quality of work. Plans that have high sustainability or increase the standard of design in the area should be particularly focused on.

Effective use of all space

The government want to make better use of all land, particularly in popular areas. They want to make use of all empty space, making it easier for buildings such as shops and offices to be converted into houses. They suggest a ‘minimum density standard’ for all planning, where low-density areas are to be avoided to make sure there is an appropriate amount of land for development.

The draft also states that local planning authorities are allowed to deny a plan if it does not make suitable use of the space. With a proposal to make use of land and not overcrowd areas, by allowing extensions onto into existing houses. The planning will be accepted if they are consistent with all other heights in the neighbourhood.

Viability Assessments

Viability Assessments (a clear but brief assessment that basically determines if the development is economically worthwhile) have been criticised before as a way to avoid or reduce affordable housing obligations. The NPPF draft states that if a proposed development complies with local policy, a viability assessment is not needed. Where a viability assessment is required, it shall now follow a standard nationalised approach which shall be set out in national planning guidance and will be made public.

All these changes aim to improve the welfare of all people in society and the environment. Hopefully, these plans are positive and the policies make a difference in the production and all bodies involved in the process see development and progress. So, what are your thoughts?

For more information, read the full proposal here

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