By Head of Planning, James Podesta

Today has seen the long-anticipated publication of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF has been subject of consultation since late 2016 and has been published ahead of parliamentary summer recess.The document, now 73 pages long, an increase of 14 pages on the last iteration, contains the government’s policies for planning and development across England and how those policies should be applied.

The NPPF is a ‘material consideration’ in the determination of planning applications and is a key reference for local planning authorities when they are gathering their evidence base and consulting on the development of new local plans.

The document still confirms (at paragraph 2) that the development plan (a local authority’s local plan) has primacy. It also continues to put sustainable development at the heart of planning policy, clearly defining sustainable development as having three objectives; economic, social and environmental and retaining the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ – a significant ‘game changer’ of recent planning times.

There is greater clarification regarding sustainable development and positive decision taking in the absence of plans, policies and adequate housing numbers etc by virtue of paragraph 11, footnotes 6 and 7, which offer more detail than the previous version, with footnote 7 now including reference to the revised housing policies at paragraph 73.

We welcome reference (at paragraph 68) that small and medium sized sites can make an important contribution to meeting housing requirements and would encourage our clients and interested landowners to discuss these opportunities with us.

We continue to support reference to rural housing and, in particular, the reference to housing being located where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities (paragraph 78).

We also continue to support the inclusion of paragraph 79 which allows the development of truly outstanding or innovative country houses – this was previously known as ‘paragraph 55’ / ‘country house clause’, or the ‘Gummer clause’ and is an area of planning policy that Rural Solutions has come to excel in, working very closely in relation to developing new country houses for our clients.

There is also a section dedicated to supporting a prosperous rural economy (paragraph 83). The NPPF is clear in its continuing support for the expansion of all types of businesses, diversification, sustainable tourism and leisure development in rural areas. Rural Solutions works on a variety of diversification projects that are supported by this and other policies in the revised NPPF.

Overall, the new NPPF continues to support development in rural areas and many of the key policies we have worked with since 2012 have remained in place. Rural development is part of the Government’s agenda and, whilst we continue to strive for greater parity with urban focused policies, there continue to be many opportunities for rural landowners.