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NPPF: DLUHC’s Secret Santa

This is the first in a series of blogs covering various topics around planning reform consultation including imminent changes to the NPPF, and how the planning system would operate if the Levelling Up Bill gets Royal Assent. This blog has been written by Richard Blyth FRTPI, our Head of Policy, Practice and Research.

Much of the planning sector spent the days before Christmas looking forward to the Department for Levelling Up revealing its long awaited “prospectus” on planning reform in England. The Department’s Santa kept everything hidden away in his ice cave until pretty much the last moment.

But on December 22 at around 17:15 all was revealed! Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: Reforms to National Planning Policy was published for consultation. We consider that this is a much anticipated and welcome opportunity for planners to inform how Government planning reforms intend to deliver levelling up in more detail.

It's really not one present, but a stocking. All that’s missing is the traditional satsuma. The bundles includes proposals on immediate changes to planning policy, offers proposals for how the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill should be implemented and sets out potential longer-term changes to national planning policy. We welcome the fact the Government appears to have understood uncertainty has been bad for the planning system and that a consultation like this for the public and our members is essential for a more stable system.

We have been engaging with the Government on the content of the NPPF for England since it was first issued in 2011. Currently the RTPI believes that the priorities for the Government should be:

  • Climate/Environment: provide a suitable framework to meet the UK’s climate and environmental commitments, including through design codes, Local Environment Improvement Plans and other mechanisms to check that net zero targets are being met with appropriate action;
  • Plans: add greater weight to the allocation of land in local plans when decisions are taken;
  • Housing: provide sufficient housing supply by supporting high quality brownfield and greenfield development to support the growth communities expect from levelling up
  • Devolution: incentivise devolved accountability for planning with greater freedoms in areas that want to innovate and experiment with planning policy to find what works for them;
  • Infrastructure: better integrate plan-making with energy, transport and other infrastructure provision to support better connected and more sustainable development.

Future posts in this blog series will cover the various topics in the Government’s consultation document. The Government is consulting on changes to be made to the NPPF immediately (in April 2023). These issues include:

  • Planning for Housing (including the 5 year land supply)
  • “A Planning System for Communities” (including SME builders and build out)
  • Nature, Climate Change and Energy (including how the Environment Act intersects with the planning system)

But as promised in May last year, the Government is also already asking for input into how the planning system as it would like to reform it would actually operate if the Levelling Up Bill gets Royal Assent. So we will be looking at:

  • Transitional Arrangement to the new system for plan making if the Levelling Up Bill receives Royal Assent
  • The content of National Development Management Policies
  • The content of the Future NPPF following Royal Assent

If you’ve not yet done so, we’d strongly encourage RTPI members to lend us your thoughts at an upcoming roundtable. Take a look here for more details about the consultation and opportunities to participate.


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