Significant changes must be made to improve the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), including removing a default acceptance of developments, MPs said today.
The Communities and Local Government Committee made the comments following its review of the draft framework, which ministers have proposed as a vastly slimmed down version of previous planning guidance. The committee said that a “default answer of ‘yes’” should be removed from the draft as well as he phrase “significantly and demonstrably” from the presumption that all planning applications should be approved unless the adverse effects “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh the benefits. This, said MPs, is because it adds a barrier to the achievement of “truly sustainable development”.
“The way the framework is drafted currently gives the impression that greater emphasis should be given in planning decisions to economic growth,” said committee chairman Clive Betts. “This undermines the equally important environmental and social elements of the planning system. As currently drafted the ‘default yes’ to development also carries the risk of the planning system being used to implement unsustainable development.
The committee also warned that clarity within the NPPF has suffered in the pursuit of brevity. “The Government wants to simplify the planning system, make it more receptive to all forms of sustainable development, and is keen to ensure effective decisions are reached more quickly,” said Betts. “Yet as currently worded the framework would introduce several ambiguities that are more likely to slow down the planning process. Gaps or contradictions in the document are likely to fuel a system of ‘planning decision by appeal’ instead of the local decision making that ministers advocate,”