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RTPI call for planning policy framework to be embedded in legislation

21 April 2011

In advance of the House of Commons Reports Stage of the Localism Bill, expected next month, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), which represents 23,000 of Britain's planning professionals, launched a new campaign this week to gain support for including the proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in legislation.

The Institute will step up the pace of its lobbying efforts, with a 'Put it on the face of the Bill' campaign aimed at ministers, MPs partners and key stakeholders.

RTPI President Richard Summers said:

\"The RTPI firmly believes that the NPPF should be embedded in legislation and that it should appear on the face of the Localism Bill. This would greatly strengthen the effectiveness of national planning policy by ensuring that a range of statutory bodies and their plans would be required to demonstrate that they had taken the policies into account before making planning related decisions.  It would also require this and successive Governments to secure parliamentary approval for the NPPF.\"

The Coalition Agreement, published on 20 May 2010, stated that the government would publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities.

As it stands, the Localism Bill does not contain any Clauses or references relating to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). There are five reasons why the RTPI considers that the NPPF needs to be referenced in the Bill:

  • It would strengthen the effectiveness of this document if a range of bodies and statutory plans were specifically required to demonstrate that they had had regard to it;
  • There is the need to establish its position in relation to other statutory national policy statements, notably National Policy Statements embodied in the 2008 Planning Act;
  • There is also the need to establish its status in relation to non-statutory national plans such as the National Infrastructure Plan;
  • A statutory basis could be used to commit successive Governments to seek the approval of Parliament for this key document;
  • It is already clear from Government statements that the NPPF will contain some fundamental guidance including; the establishment of a presumption in favour of sustainable development and the consequent definition of 'sustainable development'.  Such fundamental changes to the planning system do require a statutory basis and the ability of Parliament to approve them.

The RTPI, in a discussion paper published today,  outlines three approaches to embedding the proposed NPPF in statute.  These are: establishing the NPPF as a statutory document through a new Clause in the Localism Bill; providing a specific reference to the NPPF as a document that those fulfilling statutory planning functions must have regard to; and establishing the NPPF as a statutory document through an amendment to the 2008 Planning Act in order to give the NPPF the same status as a National Policy Statement (NPS).  Having examined all these options the RTPI believes first option of having a stand-alone Clause in the Bill would be the most effective.