Beauty more than skin deep | revised NPPF focuses on quality

06 Sep 2021

A revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sets out the Government’s national planning policies and how they are expected to be applied by planning authorities, was released in July 2021. As you would expect, the NPPF is both substantial and significant; the most recent revisions shine the spotlight on design quality (of both places and developments), enhancing the environment, meeting the challenge of climate change, the importance of trees, and sustainability.
Some of the key changes to the NPPF are summarised in brief below:
  • A higher bar to restricting permitted development rights through Article 4 Direction has been introduced.
  • Policy around local plan-making has been updated to require that larger scale developments (e.g. new settlements or significant village / town extensions) should form part of longer-term planning policies which look at least 30 years ahead.  Horsham District Council has recently resolved to postpone sending its draft local plan for examination as it would not meet this policy requirement.
  • ‘Beauty’ now features in several places in the NPPF.  The Government has clarified that beauty is a high-level statement of ambition rather than a policy test. Robert Jenrick MP explained that beauty is now ‘central to the planning system’, and the NPPF requires that all local authorities prepare design guides or codes.  The new National Model Design Code was also released on 20 July and forms part of the National Planning Practice Guidance, which should be taken into account when determining planning applications or preparing local design codes.  Such local design codes should have input from residents and introduce an element of localism.
  • It is now clear that major development within sensitive areas such as National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be refused other than in exceptional circumstances.
  • A new paragraph 96 encourages faster delivery of further education colleges, hospitals and prisons. It also places the burden on local planning authorities to work proactively with promoters, partners and other statutory bodies ‘to plan for required facilities and resolve key planning issues before applications are submitted’.
  • The rules governing when isolated homes in the countryside can be acceptable have been tightened under paragraph 80, with the removal of the word ‘innovative’.  This is a welcome change due to concerns that every such scheme could not continue to be innovative.
You will find the full NPPF as revised here:

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