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Government Launches Planning Reform Consultations

The Government has begun the consultation process for changes to key elements of the planning system in the form of The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: Reforms to National Planning Policy.  Alongside this, the Government has also published its long-awaited prospectus for revising the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for consultation.


Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI commented that “Today’s announcement of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: Reforms to National Planning Policy consultation is a much anticipated and welcome opportunity for planners to inform how Government planning reforms intend to deliver levelling up in more detail. It includes proposals on immediate changes to planning policy, offers proposals for how the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill should be implemented and references potential longer-term changes to national planning policy. We welcome the fact Government appears to have understood uncertainty has been bad for the planning system and that a consultation like this for the public and our members is essential for a more stable system.”


The changes to the NPPF are unlikely to stop there as the government also promises a wider review of the NPPF, to follow Royal Assent of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The planning reforms consultation states that “The government will consult on the detail of these wider changes next year, reflecting responses to this consultation”.


Some of the key points are as follows:

  1. Councils would be able to take past over-delivery of housing into account when assessing housing need. The draft NPPF is intended to make clear that, if permissions that have been granted exceed the provision made in the existing plan, that surplus may be deducted from what needs to be provided in the new plan. Local planning authorities would also be allowed to include historic oversupply in their five-year housing land supply calculations.
  2. The test of ‘soundness’ for local plans is to be scaled back. The draft NPPF revisions say that plans will no longer be required to be ‘justified’, which will remove the need to test reasonable alternatives for delivering growth.
  3. Some authorities with emerging local plans will benefit from a reduced housing land supply requirement. For the purposes of decision-making, where emerging local plans have been submitted for examination or where they have been subject to a Regulation 18 or 19 consultation which included both a policies map and proposed allocations towards meeting housing need, those authorities will benefit from a reduced housing land supply requirement, the consultation says. This will be a requirement to demonstrate a four-year supply of land for housing, instead of the usual five.
  4. Authorities with an up-to-date local plan will no longer need to continually show a deliverable five-year housing land supply. In this case, “up-to-date” means where the housing requirement as set out in strategic policies is less than five years old, the document says.
  5. Councils would no longer have to provide five-year housing land supply buffers.
  6. Delivery will become a material consideration in planning applications. The document states that “This could mean that applications with trajectories that propose a slow delivery rate may be refused in certain circumstances”.
  7. Authorities will be required to start work on new plans by, at the latest, five years after adoption of their previous plan, and to adopt that new plan within 30 months.
  8. There is intended to be a consultation next year on how National Development Management Policies (NDMPs) are implemented. These policies will cover planning considerations that apply regularly in decision-making across England or significant parts of it.
  9. Make sure that food security considerations are factored into planning decisions that affect farm land.
  10. Protection against development that conflicts with neighbourhood plans is to be extended to older plans. The government is proposing that the protection should be extended to plans that are up to five years old.

The consultation’s focus is very much on quick changes to the NPPF following November’s backbench rebellions. The national policy review coming next year is expected to be far wider in its scope and will pick up various changes to legislation and national policy over the last few years, including use class E and First Homes.


The consultation documents can be viewed here.


For further information on this and to discuss any related planning matters please contact our Head of Planning Dan Hewett