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Guarded welcome for planning reforms but concerns remain

Mar 27, 2012

UKELA welcomes the new national planning policy framework published today, as an improvement on the draft document published in July 2011. But UKELA remains concerned about how well the policies will work for a better environment.

UKELA had fundamental concerns about the presumption in favour of sustainable development included in the draft.[1] The new policy framework provides welcome clarity on some of the key issues raised.

UKELA was concerned that the draft presumption equated sustainable development with growth, giving substantial advantage to developers at the expense of environmental protection. UKELA welcomes the decision to drop the ‘core planning principle’ that the default answer to development proposals should be ‘yes’. UKELA also welcomes the greater clarity on the meaning of sustainable development, including a reference to living within environmental limits.

But the presumption still has a strong pro-development flavour. Adverse impacts must ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweigh the benefits for planning permission to be refused: it is no longer a case of simply balancing competing interests. And it is not clear how the principles of sustainable development relate to the presumption.

UKELA welcomes transitional provisions that mean that local development policies can continue to carry weight. But limits to the scope of these provisions mean that existing local development policies will increasingly be trumped by central government policies.

Other changes that UKELA welcomes include:

· References to the statutory test, which help clarify how it will fit with the presumption in favour of sustainable development.[2]

· The change to the presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that it no longer applies where local plans are ‘indeterminate’. This would have turned the planning system into confusion as policies in local plans often pull in different directions.

· The encouragement of brownfield development: the draft framework had removed targets for this.

Notes to the editors:

[1] These are set out in UKELA’s response to the Government’s proposed draft National Planning Policy Framework, October 2011

[2] This refers to the rule that decisions should be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise (established in s.54A of the 1990 Act, and now in section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004)].

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