The National Planning Policy Framework is in the news again today as the CLG Select Committee published its report on the policy, siding with the National Trust, CPRE, IfA and CBA in criticising its ‘confusing’ ‘vague’ ‘unbalanced’ and ‘unsustainable’ language and concluding that a re-wording of the presumption in favour of sustainable development should be enacted.
The report, however, is actually reasonably positive about the direction being taken, and – call me naive – seems as though it might have struck a sensible balance that means that Greg Clark and the Government will be able to institute a re-write of some of the more contentious issues of the policy without looking like they’ve suffered any kind of serious defeat – which as we all know is the bottom line of politics, rather than, say, real progress arrived at as a result of sensible debate.
Some of the key recommendations are:
1) That the Government remove the ‘default yes’ to development position.
2) The phrase ‘significantly and demonstrably’ should be removed from the passage considering whether the adverse affects of development outweigh the benefits.
3) The emphasis on the commercial viability for developers should be dropped.
4) The phrase ‘sustainable development’ should be more rigorously and consistently defined and should place a balanced emphasis upon social, environment and economic aspects.
5) The ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ should exist within the context of local plans, rather than as a decision-making mechanism in and of itself.
Another point made by the Committee was the need for a clearer timetable for the transition, outlining requirements for the positioning of local plans in order to ensure complicity to the policy across the country with no shortfall in capability to implement it when the time comes.
Additionally, I would argue that more detail about what kinds of practice guides can be expected in the future, and elaboration on how aspects of local and national guidance will coalesce may help to ease the passage, at this stage, of a second draft which corrects the most significant issues of the policy.
Perhaps a remaining question is whether there will be a second opportunity to provide feedback on any major revisions to the document that take place over the next couple of months, or whether the government will fear pushing back the assent of the policy further and further into 2012.