This page explains the NPPF policy roundtables that were conducted by the RTPI to survey planners views and inform our response to the Government's March 2023 consultation. The final response can be found on our national policy hub.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities launched its consultation on updating the National Planning Policy Framework in December 2022. ‘Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill: reforms to national planning policy’ and its supporting documents cover key elements of the planning system and outlines the Government’s ongoing planning reforms.
They include proposals on immediate changes to planning policy, indicate how sections of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill should be implemented and references potential longer-term changes to national planning policy.
NPPF policy roundtable events
We held a series of in-person roundtables to guide our Policy team’s response to the consultation. We sought views from members on the following topic areas: planning for housing; a planning system for communities; environment, climate change and energy; transitional arrangements; national development management policies; the future of national policy.
Dates for the roundtables we held are listed below.
- London, 19 January, 4 - 6pm
- North West, 26 January, 1 - 3pm
- North West, 26 January, 3:15 - 5pm
- North East, 30 January, 2 - 4pm
- West Midlands, 31 January, 11 - 1pm
- Young Planners, 3 February, 12 - 2pm
- East of England, 8 February, 2 - 4pm
- Housebuilders, 10 February, 3 - 5pm
- South West, 9 February, 2 - 4pm
- Urban Design Network, 14 February, 11- 1pm
- Independent Consultants Network, 14 February, 11-1pm
- RTPI Fellows, 15 February, 2pm
- East Midlands, 16 February, 11 - 1pm
- South East, 21 February, 11 - 1pm
- South East, 21 February, 2 - 4pm
- Yorkshire, 22 February, 2 - 4pm
Roundtable discussion topics covered
Planning for housing
The RTPI’s priority throughout the process of planning reform has been to add greater weight to the allocation of land in local plans when decisions are taken. We have also consistently argued that national policy should do more to provide sufficient housing supply. We have argued that supporting high quality brownfield and greenfield development would enable our planning system to deliver the growth communities expect from levelling up more robustly and effectively.
Government has proposed changes in chapters 3 and 4 intended to provide local authorities with further incentives to agree a local plan and allowing more homes to be built. They include:
- Removing the requirement for local authorities to demonstrate continually a deliverable 5-year housing land supply where they have an up-to-date local plan
- Removing ambiguities about Green Belt policies to make clear that authorities need not review or alter them if these would be the only way to meet housing need in full
- Amending local plan tests of ‘soundness’ so they’re no longer required to be ‘justified’ to the same evidential requirements as currently
- Maintaining the 35% uplift for large towns and cities used in the method for calculating local housing need since 2020
- Introducing a new “alignment policy” to replace the repealed ‘Duty to Cooperate’ and involve adjoining authorities (like those neighbouring urban uplift areas) in meeting the needs of the “core” town or city
A planning system for communities
In this consultation Government has proposed changes in chapter 5 intended to give communities more of a say on development, support levelling up and encourage housing market diversification and delivery. They include:
- Supply small sites for development and support SME builders
- Encourage a greater role for community-led housing groups
- Widening application considerations to include what it calls “past irresponsible behaviour” of applicants
- Accelerate build out rates by pushing data on developers of sites over a certain size, requiring developers to explain how the propose to diversity housing tenures and maximise a scheme’s absorption rate and make delivery on existing permissions a material consideration in new planning applications
In a recent blog Chartered Town Planner Harry Quartermain looks at the challenges around encouraging small sites development.
Environment, climate change and energy
The RTPI has called for further NPPF changes in recent years to ensure national policy provides 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.
Government has proposed changes in chapters 7 and 8 intended to help business and communities protect and enhance the environment for future generations, build a net zero carbon future, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. They include:
- Preventing destruction of biodiversity just before assessments of it are made
- Forbidding artificial grassland
- Increasing protection of Ancient Woodland and fertile farmland
- Introducing carbon impact assessments for from plan-making and planning decisions
- Reviewing the case for implementing Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010
- Addressing overheating and water scarcity
- Placing more focus on nature-based solutions and multi-functional benefits
- Enabling the re-powering of renewable and low carbon energy
- Ensuring communities’ view of impacts of onshore wind farms are addressed and that they demonstrable local support
- Having ways to indicate LPA support for wind farms outside site allocations
In a recent blog Richard Blyth FRTPI, our Head of Policy, Practice and Research, looks at some of the proposed changes around the environment and climate.
In combination with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, Government has proposed a timeline of additional planning reforms in chapters 9 and 10. To encourage the continued progress of local plans during these changes the consultation outlines how existing legal frameworks will apply to plans currently under development and examination during a period of transition. These suggest:
- Plan-makers will have until 30 June 2025 to submit plans under the existing legal framework and those examinations must be concluded, with plans adopted by 31 December 2026
- Planning authorities must start preparing a ‘new style’ local plan if they have local plans which are more than 5 years old when the new system comes into effect
- Planning authorities which have prepared a plan which is less than 5 years old when the new system comes into effect will not be required to begin preparing a ‘new style’ plan until their existing plan is 5 years old
- Plans that will become more than 5 years old during the first 30 months of the new system (i.e. while the local planning authority is preparing their new plan), will continue to be considered ‘up-to-date’ for decision-making purposes for 30 months after the new system starts.
- Current SPDs will automatically cease to have effect at the point at which authorities are required to have a ‘new style’ plan in place.
Read our blog by Dr Daniel Slade, the RTPI’s new Policy Manager, on transitional arrangements for plan making.
National Development Management Policies (NDMPs)
The scope of NDMPs, to be introduced by the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill currently making its way through parliament, have been described by government in chapter 10 in more detail than has been published previously.
Government intends for NDMPs to cover planning considerations that apply regularly in decision-making in England.
Throughout the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill’s passage, the RTPI has urged central government to incentivise devolved accountability for planning, using national policy to give greater freedoms in areas that want to innovate and experiment with planning policy. We have also argued that parliament should be required to consider new or amended policies as with National Policy Statements.
As confirmed in this consultation, legislation would give NDMPs the same weight in planning decisions as policies in local plans, neighbourhood plans and other statutory plans (and could, where relevant, also be a material consideration in some other planning decisions, such as those on Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects).
They have proposed that these policies would fall within three categories. In each, it is important for planning policy to help local areas find what works for them. It is suggested NDMPs will include:
- Existing policies aimed at decision-making already provided within the National Planning Policy Framework
- Selective new additions to reflect new national priorities, for example net zero policies that it would be difficult to develop evidence to support at a district level, but which are nationally important
- Selective new additions to close ‘gaps’ where existing national policy is silent on planning considerations that regularly affect decision-making in England (with examples given on carbon reduction, allotments and housing in built-up areas)
Read this blog on National Development Management Policies produced by the University of Liverpool and Arup.
The future of national planning policy
Government has suggested in chapters 10, 12 and 13 that - alongside a “wider review” of the NPPF and the introduction of NDMPs - they intend to refocus the existing non-statutory framework on the principles of plan-making (“i.e. the general approach to allocating land for development in plans and protecting areas of value”). These non-statutory principles would then be separated from nationals policies, which in future are to be given stronger legal force when outlined in NDMPs.
The RTPI support the better integration of plan-making with energy, transport and other infrastructure provision through national policy to support better connected and more sustainable development.
Further consultations are expected but “indicative” suggestions for additional national policies have been outlined in chapter 10 and chapter 12 suggests a table of issues that are expected to be reflected in national policy once the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill received Royal Assent.
Read our blog from Harry Steele, Infrastructure Specialist at the RTPI, looking at how the NPPF consultation identified transport as an issue to address once the new planning system is in place.
Further reading and resources
Government has published numerous documents related to the National Planning Policy Framework Consultation here.
A full outline of the government’s proposed planning reforms can be found here.
The RTPI has been a vocal advocate of improvements to planning reform and has published blogs and statements outlining our response and further steps we are taking: