Since its introduction in 2012, the National Planning Policy Framework has undergone regular changes in the intervening years, with the most recent update being published last month in July 2021.
At its core, the NPPF sets out how sustainable development should be achieved through 3 separate objectives:
This new NPPF has revised its social objective so that now all new developments should be “well designed, beautiful, and safe spaces.” This replaces previous wording in Paragraph 8b which had previous stated that all new development sites needed to be “a well-designed and safe built environment.” The government has said that the term ‘beautiful’ should be read as a high-level statement of ambition, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insinuates that “this is about putting communities, not developers, in the driving seat to ensure good quality design is the norm.”
This idea of new development needing to be focused around being ‘beautiful’ is further expanded upon in the new Paragraph 133. In policy terms, this paragraph introduces a new test that development should be well-designed, meaning that a local authority has the power to refuse any application that fails to reflect local design policies, guides and codes, and attribute “significant weight” to applications which “promote high levels of sustainability or help raise the standard of design more generally in an area.” It is important that all planning applications going forward from this point are aware of the new policy design on emphasis and as such will ensure that applications are policy compliant, developments that are not compliant will in most cases be refused.
Another fairly substantial addition to the NPPF has been that going forward there is a new mandatory statute for ensuring that all new streets will be lined by trees and that opportunities are taken to incorporate the provision of tress elsewhere in new developments and that measures are taken to ensure their long term maintenance and safeguarding. This can be found in Paragraph 131, which also maintains that 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.”
These changes, along with other changes in the NPPF, may signal the first step in this government’s plan to streamline the planning process for developments that meet the minimum design requirements and standards. More changes may be coming to planning policy in the autumn.