Posted by

Tom Nolan, Policy Researcher

29 Mar 2012

The much-anticipated reforms to the planning system were unveiled today with the publication of the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The release follows months of sometimes heated debate over what the document should contain. While it has been changed from a draft version that was published for consultation last summer, it retains the pro-growth elements of the draft. The changes relate to the rhetoric of the draft rather than to policy, and seems designed to clarify some of the Government’s original intentions, in areas such as building on brownfield land. It is particularly encouraging to see that the presumption in favour of sustainable development has remained. From a business perspective the presumption is key to delivering a positive, pro-development system.

As Minister Greg Clark MP said in his statement to Parliament today the Chambers of Commerce have many concerns with the current planning system. We know that for many years businesspeople throughout the country efforts to grow their businesses have been frustrated by a burdensome planning system. Unsurprisingly, it is regularly identified as a major barrier to growth. A few months ago we conducted a survey of businesses to get an in-depth understating of their experience of the system. The results showed just how costly, complex and inconsistent the current system is for a business that wants to expand and create growth and jobs. One statistic from the survey that stood out was that over 60% of those that applied for planning permission in different parts of the country received inconsistent advise across local authorities. A major reason for this was that the current set of national policy statements and guidance runs to over 1,000 pages, and is often contradictory. The NPPF reduces guidance to just 47 and this simplification should improve the consistency that is vital if the system to function properly. You can see more of the results of the survey here.

 It is widely accepted that reform of the planning system is long overdue. Therefore the NPPF is to be welcomed, however it is important to remember that the reforms it proposes are rather modest, and how it is implemented will be key to its success. There is still more to be done to improve the system.

 You can find our full reaction to the NPPF by following this link.