05.04.2012Colliers International Planning team comments on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). There is no doubt that the document has been well received by both developers and environmental groups alike, which is a vastly different situation to the initial draft, which generated significant debate. There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which in our view is an evolution of the existing presumption in favour of development that accords with the development plan for two crucial planning areas: Plan Making; Local authorities need to meet the development needs of their area positively. Local Plans must be kept up to date if local authorities wish to oversee development opportunities within their jurisdiction. Decision Taking; Approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay. Where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out of date, planning permission should be granted. Key points for Colliers International clients to note are as follows: Retail: Town centres are viewed as the heart of communities and their viability and vitality are supported for office, retail and leisure uses with a continued requirement for sequential and impact tests. There is a requirement to undertake an assessment of the need to expand town centres to ensure suitable sites can meet the full scale and type of retail requirements. Commercial Property: Economic growth underpins the aims of the NPPF and there are recognitions of viability and delivery constraints, which is important in reviewing existing planning permissions. Changes of use from commercial property (Use Class B) to residential should be approved, unless inappropriate based on strong economic reasons. Residential Development: The aim is to significantly boost the supply of housing by meeting the effective land supply in full for market and affordable housing in each Housing Market Area. Where local authorities have a persistent undersupply of housing in their five year land supply they have to provide an additional 20% of housing land in the first five years of the plan. Elsewhere the additional buffer is 5%. Large scale development is encouraged via extensions to existing settlements or new settlements that follow Garden City principles. A Core Planning Principle is the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land). Local targets will be set by Councils. Environmental Considerations: Reaffirming that the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl, inappropriate development will only be approved in distinct circumstances. Proactive strategies are required from local authorities to mitigate and adapt to climate change, taking account of flood risk, coastal change and water supply. The planning system is required to contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment. The new NPPF places the power of local decision making firmly in the hands of local authorities. The clear implication of the new document, however, is that those authorities who fail to maintain an up-to-date local plan will find it difficult to resist developer led proposals. The key message to planning authorities is to keep their plans up to date or else suffer the consequences. Realistically, a 12 month period of grace will not be sufficient for many authorities to get up to date which will allow a window for developers to promote schemes against a local policy vacuum. Colliers International welcome the NPPF and can advise their clients of its implications for their development proposals.