By Senior Planner, Kate Girling
The revised draft changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published on Monday are being driven by the urgent requirement to deliver more housing in England. The changes to the document have been long awaited following publication of the Government Housing White Paper in February 2017.
What does this mean for our rural clients? Here, the key changes that are likely to affect the opportunities for planning in the rural environment are highlighted.
We very much welcome the addition of an explicit reference to Rural Housing in the revised policy document. It serves to underline the importance of housing and that its provision is not just an urban phenomenon, but of immense importance to the future vitality of the country.
New focus on small sites
Furthermore, the consultation document states that small sites can make an important contribution to meeting housing requirements as they are often built out relatively quickly and they are vital to the delivery of more housing across England. The draft NPPF proposes that up to 20% of a council’s housing land supply is made up of sites of half a hectare or less. At present, most local authorities will not consider sites of less than one hectare for allocation within a plan or even assessment within a SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment) document. This key adjustment would open up more opportunity for growth within smaller rural settlements; something that could be very enabling for our clients looking to diversify into residential development.
There has been lots of discussion about changes to this area of planning, however, the draft policy relating to development within the Green Belt and the exceptions for permitting development within it remain largely unchanged. However, the material change of use of land within the Green Belt has been reinserted. Previously included as an exception in PPS7, change of use of land is not included within the current NPPF but looks set to make a return.
Paragraph 85 & The Rural Economy
Paragraph 85 is a new paragraph that has been introduced, outlining the Government’s determined support of rural business. It is a positive step forward on current policy in recognising that sites for rural business and community needs may have to be found outside existing settlements and in locations that are not well served by public transport. This further aids the understanding of the Government’s approach in differentiating rural from urban planning on matters of locational accessibility and a welcome addition for us and our clients.
The NPPF consultation references that they will continue to look at more effective ways of bringing agricultural land forward for housing. The Government is exploring wider measures to support farm diversification and housing in the rural economy which alludes to further changes, perhaps to Permitted Development Rights as one mechanism. We eagerly await further announcements on this in due course.
The consultation on the draft changes to the NPPF ends on 10th May 2018. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Contact us here.