The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities held a consultation on reforms to national planning policy between 22 December 2022 and 2 March 2023. The consultation sought views on proposals to develop new and revise current national planning policy.
- The LGA broadly welcomes the removal of the requirement for councils to maintain a rolling 5-year housing supply of deliverable land for housing, where their plan is up to date (i.e. adopted within the past five years). Removing this requirement will curb speculative development and ‘planning by appeal’, giving greater clarity and confidence for communities in the future development of their local areas, as well as helping councils plan more strategically for local infrastructure requirements.
- We welcome the Government’s commitment that whilst housing targets will remain, they will be a starting point with a flexibility to take account of local circumstances. This is because the algorithms and formulas used by the Standard Method can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their areas best. However, it would be helpful to have clarity about what “advisory” means in practice.
- We recognise that if advisory housing targets are to hold any credibility, those targets must be realistic and achievable. Therefore, advisory housing targets must be aligned – and must continue to be re-aligned going forward – with the latest population projection data published by the Office for National Statistics. The principle in planning of using the most up to date evidence must always be upheld. We are disappointed that, as outlined in the consultation document, the Government will continue to rely upon the 2014-based household projections data underpinning the Standard Method.
- The LGA has long raised our concerns about how the Housing Delivery Test penalises councils and communities for non-delivery of permitted homes, which is out of their control, when they have few levers to incentivise the build-out of sites by developers once sites have been allocated and granted permission. We there are supportive of the principle of a permissions-based test that will “switch-off” the application of the presumption in favour of development for those authorities that can demonstrate they have permitted sufficient numbers of housing units to meet their local need. This will help to curb speculative development and ensure development comes forward through a genuinely plan-led system.
- The implementation of the proposals set out in this consultation and the Government’s broader planning reform agenda will require significant resource, skills and capacity at a local level to incorporate the changes into plan-preparation and decision-making. We welcome the Government’s commitment to developing a planning skills strategy but urge them to bring it forward swiftly.
- The proposed amendments to the NPPF do not go far enough to underline the challenges posed by climate change. We would expect to see the NPPF go further in the revised framework, due to be consulted upon next year, to emphasise the role climate change mitigation and adaption will have in the future of local communities across the country.
- While we welcome the Government’s intention to provide a grace period for local authorities to transition to the future planning system, we are concerned that there is currently a gap in the transitional arrangements for some local authorities based their year of local plan adoption.
- National Development Management Policies (NDMP’s) may speed up the production of plan-making and reduce duplication in local plans, however, in the absence of any material detail on the type and scope of NDMP’s, beyond what is set out in the consultation, it is impossible to comment on the real impact they may have on local authorities to plan effectively at the local level. We are concerned that setting policies at national level will leave councils unable to tailor such policies to local circumstances. Flexibility must be built into the system to enable councils to respond to local, complex and changing circumstances.
Chapter 3: providing certainty through local and neighbourhood plans
Reforming the 5-year housing land supply
Q2: Do you agree that buffers should not be required as part of 5YHLS calculations (this includes the 20% buffer as applied by the Housing Delivery Test)?
Q3: Should an oversupply of homes early in a plan period be taken into consideration when calculating a 5YHLS later on, or is there an alternative approach that is preferable?
Q4: What should any planning guidance dealing with oversupply and undersupply say?
The LGA broadly welcomes the removal of the requirement for councils to maintain a rolling 5-year housing supply of deliverable land for housing, where their plan is up to date (i.e. adopted within the past five years).
Removing this requirement will curb speculative development and ‘planning by appeal’, giving greater clarity and confidence for communities in the future development of their local areas, as well as helping councils plan more strategically for local infrastructure requirements.
Removing this requirement will also give local plans more weight when making decisions on planning applications. This is fundamental to a genuinely local, plan-led system, and we believe that this move will go some way in supporting the Government’s ambition to empower local leaders and communities to take control of and shape the area in which they live.
We agree with the Government’s reasoning and proposals to remove buffers on the 5-year housing land supply test, including the 20% buffer applied to the Housing Delivery Test where a local planning authority delivers less than 85% of the homes it is required to.
We support the Government’s proposed change in approach when considering historic oversupply of housing in early years of plan periods when calculating 5-year housing land supply. This will better reflect the nature of development in local areas, and ensure that proactive councils, seeking to deliver higher numbers of housing in their local areas, are not subject to punitive measures later in their plan period.
Any changes to the operation of the 5-year housing land supply requirement for local authorities with a plan which is more than 5-years old should permit local authorities the flexibilities needed to demonstrate sufficient housing delivery and supply, in consideration of local circumstances.
Boosting the status of neighbourhood plans
We welcome the changes and simplification made to paragraph 14 of the existing Framework, both to give greater weight to neighbourhood plans in decision-making and to extend protection to neighbourhood plans from 2-years to 5-years.
Chapter 4: planning for housing
We support the changes made to the opening chapters of the framework which underline the importance of a genuinely local, plan-led system.
Local housing need and the standard method
We welcome the Government’s commitment that whilst housing targets will remain, they will be a starting point with a flexibility to take account of local circumstances. This is because the algorithms and formulas used by the Standard Method can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their areas best.
However, it would be helpful to have clarity about what “advisory” means in practice.
We recognise that if advisory housing targets are to hold any credibility, those targets must be realistic and achievable. Therefore, advisory housing targets must be aligned – and must continue to be re-aligned going forward – with the latest population projection data published by the Office for National Statistics. The principle in planning of using the most up to date evidence must always be upheld. We are disappointed that, as outlined in the consultation document, the Government will continue to rely upon the 2014-based household projections data underpinning the standard method.
The most recent 2022 projection, which is based on the population estimate from 2020, indicates that population forecasts for both mid-2030 and mid-2045 are at its lowest point in eight years. We welcome the Government’s commitment in the consultation to review the implications on the standard method of new household projections data based on the 2021 Census, which is due to be published in 2024. However, we consider an urgent readjustment should be made ahead of that to reflect the most current set of data.
Introducing new flexibilities to meeting housing needs
Yes – the Government should set out what may constitute exceptional circumstances for the use of an alternative approach for assessing local housing needs but sufficient flexibility should be built into this to allow councils to address the individuality of local areas and local needs.
The Planning Inspectorate will play an important role in the implementation of this proposal. We would urge the Government to work closely with them to ensure councils feel confident that, should they put forward exceptional circumstances at examination for an alternative approach for assessing local housing need, it is sound.
Local councils and communities know their areas best, and national planning policy should be suitably flexible to allow authorities to make judgement decisions on managing competing demands for uses in their local areas. Such decisions must be appropriately evidenced through the development of the local plan and therefore also ratified by the Planning Inspectorate through a plan’s examination.
Local authorities already produce a number of evidence-based documents in the plan-making process which would be appropriate to be relied upon to demonstrate that need could only be met by building densities out of character with existing areas. These include, but are not limited to, character appraisals, conservation area management plans, and urban capacity studies. Determinations from planning applications and/or appeals could also be used in certain circumstances.
A local, plan-led system delivers positive outcomes for places and communities. It is important for local plans, with their associated evidence collation, analysis and community consultation, to be the most appropriate strategy for local areas based on the relevant evidence and having discounted those approaches which are inappropriate.
We agree that the current system has necessitated an approach that requires local planning authorities to produce large amounts of evidence to demonstrate that they have taken a reasonable approach to meeting housing need. The LGA therefore supports the proposal for a more proportionate approach to examination in order to bring forward more local plans more quickly which are supported by local leaders and communities.
We would urge the Government to set out further guidance on how the removal of the test of justification would work in practice at examination, and stress the importance of the Planning Inspectorate in the implementation of these reforms.
Given the significant time and resource that go into preparing local plans, and the importance of a local plan being in place to support a plan-led system, we agree that those plans at the pre-submission consultation stage, that reach that stage within 3 months of the introduction of this policy change or have been submitted for examination should be assessed against the version of the NPPF on which they have been prepared.
While it is welcome that the Government is seeking to locate more homes in sustainable locations and in turn support more sustainable transport options, the urban uplift of 35% over and above the number generated by the standard method for the 20 largest cities in England seems contrary to the wider reforms of housing targets, by making them ‘advisory’ and introducing new flexibilities to meeting those targets.
Algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their areas best. We would urge the Government to consider our responses to questions 7-10 in this consultation regarding how the standard method may be used flexibly by local authorities and whether the application of the urban uplift fits with the Government’s messaging on involving communities in plan-making and planning decisions.
We would also ask that prior to the implementation of changes to the NPPF regarding the urban uplift that an impact assessment should be undertaken to review the ability of those local authorities to place-shape since the introduction of the urban uplift. This review should also consider impacts on neighbouring authorities.
Enabling communities with plans already in the system to benefit from changes
We support this proposal.
Transitional arrangements should apply for all the amendments in the revised NPPF to allow plans to be submitted and tested against the framework they were prepared against.
Taking account of permissions granted in the housing delivery test
Councils are committed to working with Government and developers to build the housing the country needs, with land for more than 2.6 million homes allocated in local plans and nine in 10 planning applications being approved.
The LGA have long raised our concerns about how the Housing Delivery Test penalises councils and communities for non-delivery of permitted homes, which is out of their control, when they have few levers to incentivise the build-out of sites by developers once sites have been allocated and granted permission.
We there are supportive of the principle of a permissions-based test that will “switch-off” the application of the presumption in favour of development for those authorities that can demonstrate they have permitted sufficient numbers of housing units to meet their local need. This will help to curb speculative development and ensure development comes forward through a genuinely plan-led system.
While a national “switch-off” percentage figure is welcomed, it could act as a starting point, and local authorities should have the flexibilities to use their own evidence to demonstrate non-implementation of permissions and determine a more appropriate “switch-off” percentage for their area. The Government should work with local authorities to identify the most robust method for counting deliverable homes permissioned for the purposes of the “switch off”.
Alongside the permissions-based “switch off”, we would still call for greater powers for local authorities to incentivise developers to build-out permitted schemes. We are supportive of proposals in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, including the introduction of commencement notices as starting point for addressing the ongoing challenges around build-out of schemes following planning permission. It is good that this measure will be introduced alongside powers for councils to deter and tackle non-compliance, including the possibility of a fine.
We also welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to bring forward additional measures to tackle slow build-out. Specifically, we would welcome the introduction of powers to allow councils to charge full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point the original planning permission expires. It should also be made easier for councils to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire stalled housing sites or sites where developers do not build out to timescales contractually agreed with a local planning authority.
We would support the Government suspending the test’s consequences until the publication of the 2023 Housing Delivery Test.
Chapter 5: a planning system for communities
More homes for social rent
It is imperative Government considers what steps, measures and reforms would support councils to work towards delivering a new generation of 100,000 high quality social homes per year. We agree in principle that more weight could be attributed in national planning policy to the delivery of homes for social rent, though specific requirements should be determined at a local level through the plan-making process.
More older people’s housing
Society is ageing and more people require housing that meets their needs as they age. Between 2014 and 2039, over 70 per cent of projected household growth will be made up of households with someone aged 60 or older. The suitability of the housing stock is of critical importance to the health of individuals and impacts on public spending, particularly adult social care, and the NHS.
Councils are well placed to exercise local leadership and take a greater strategic approach to enhance the housing and lifestyle choices for people in later life. Integrated action in the fields of housing and planning can align with some of the most important policy areas currently challenging national and local government – how to reform and integrate the NHS, social care, and public health in the context of population ageing, and how to increase housing supply delivery and build more resilient and healthy neighbourhoods.
We agree with the principle of amending paragraph 62 in the Framework to support the supply of specialist older people’s housing. Councils should set out in their evidence base as part of developing local plans, details of the need for different types of housing suited to older people, including mainstream housing that is suitably designed and/or adapted and specialist types of housing, such as retirement housing and housing with care.
To support local authorities, we would recommend that guidelines are published by the Government through the Task Force on Housing for Older People, that clarify the different housing models/typologies for older people with appropriate recommendations regarding planning Use Class and planning facilitation measures for the assessment of applications.
Our report Housing our ageing population contains other recommendations and case studies of councils who are identifying the future housing needs of older people in their local area.
More small sites for small builders
The use of small sites to bring forward new housing units, as well as affordable housing, varies in its efficacy and quantity across the country based on local circumstances such as availability of sites and capacity of developers (including SMEs). Strengthening national policy on small sites should not preclude local authorities from determining their own local policies and percentages for the use of small sites.
Viability pressures remain one of the greatest challenges for local authorities trying to bring forward affordable housing units. We welcomed the amendments made by Government in the Planning Practice Guidance for viability in 2019 which stated that the “cost of fully complying with policy requirements should be accounted for in benchmark land value” and that “under no circumstances will the price paid for land be relevant justification for failing to accord with relevant policies in the plan”. However, we are concerned that councils continue to report that the plan-led system is still being undermined by the use of viability arguments from developers to avoid the need to meet local plan policy requirements including the provision of affordable housing and providing infrastructure contributions.
We would like to see further amendments made to the viability system – for example, removing the requirement to factor in an assumed developer or landowner return or removal of viability assessments as a material planning consideration entirely.
Further, we would urge the Government to urgently review the 2019 amendments to the PPG for viability and assess whether they have achieved their intended objectives.
More community-led developments
On Question 26, we support the Government’s ambitions to strengthen the regulation and oversight of affordable housing for rent, through its social housing regulation reform agenda. This will increase the rights of tenants and enable tenants to better hold their landlord to account on consumer issues. We are therefore concerned that a proposed change to the definition in the NPPF to make it easier for organisations that are not Registered Providers to develop new affordable homes would be at odds with that ambition. Consideration could instead be given to a simpler, streamlined process for very small, volunteer-run organisations that would enable them to satisfy the Regulator of Social Housing’s registration requirements.
Community-led groups are best placed to provide views on Question 27 - Question 29.
In principle, this may help to both improve build out rates and tackle poor developer behaviour and improve public confidence in the planning system. We agree with the examples of past behaviour set out in the consultation.
However, should this mechanism be introduced, there would need to be clearly defined parameters set out in the NPPF or planning guidance to ensure that local authorities can make evidenced decisions, and not be subject to legal challenge.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to engaging further with local authorities on proposals to introduce mechanisms to take account of applicant past behaviour. We are concerned by how councils would be able to identify irresponsible applicants as they may be set up in multiple company names. We are also concerned that these options may open up local authorities to legal challenge.
We believe Option 1, making past irresponsible behaviour on the applicant’s part a material consideration in a planning application, may add further complexity to the decision-making process.
Option 2, whereby councils can decline to determine applications submitted by applicants who have a demonstrated track record of past irresponsible behaviour, could, in certain circumstances and if further details such as defining how councils demonstrate past irresponsible behaviour are set out, be a more palatable option though it may also add to the burden of local authorities in the decision-making process.
More build out
Councils are committed to working with Government and developers to build the housing the country needs, with land for more than 2.6 million homes allocated in local plans and nine in 10 planning applications being approved. However, Councils continue to raise concerns about stalled sites in their area and/or slower than anticipated build out. The introduction of commencement notices in the Bill is a welcome starting point for addressing the ongoing challenges around build-out of schemes following planning permission. It is good that this measure will be introduced alongside powers for councils to deter and tackle non-compliance, including the possibility of a fine.
We welcome proposals in this consultation to bring forward additional measures to support councils to tackle slow build-out, however the Government should go further including: a ‘stalled sites’ council tax premium (like the existing empty homes premium); a streamlined compulsory purchase process to acquire (at pre-uplift value) stalled sites or sites where developers do not build out to agreed rates and powers to direct diversification of housing products on sites.
Clarity in the NPPF will be required on what constitutes a ‘slow’ delivery rate in order for local authorities to evidence it as a material consideration in planning application decision-making.
Chapter 6: asking for beauty
Ask for beauty
The words ‘beautiful’ and ‘beauty’, which are being proposed throughout the NPPF, are subjective and not defined. They may help emphasise the role of beauty and placemaking and encourage well-designed development but provide no framework or explicit guidance regarding how places and the spaces should be developed. Consulting publicly on what meets a ‘beauty’ threshold in local plans will pose a challenge for communities and councils in their decision-making.
Again, we would stress that the words ‘beautiful’ or ‘beauty’ are subjective and not defined. They may help emphasise the role of beauty and placemaking and encourage well-designed development but provide no framework or explicit guidance regarding how places and the spaces should be developed.
Yes – we agree that, where appropriate, planning conditions for development should refer to the detailed, clear and accurate plans submitted by developers in order to support enforcement against non-conformity to permitted schemes.
Embracing gentle density
No - we believe that any policies embracing gentle density should be designed, consulted upon and agreed by those who know their areas best – local authorities and their communities. We would stress this point because the NPPF should be a document which sets out guiding principles to the development and use of land in England – we would urge against the Government including anything as specific as mansard roofs.
Chapter 7: protecting the environment and tackling climate change
Delivering biodiversity net gain and local nature recovery
We agree that national policy on small scale interventions, at the house or site level, should be strengthened to stress the importance of protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and supporting guidance and advice on good practice should be published. It is important that local authorities retain the flexibility to build and develop their own guidance on small scale interventions, to reflect local circumstances.
The use of artificial grass in new developments in and around homes should be limited as far as possible in policy.
Recognising the food production value of farmland
Local government is a key stakeholder in the management of rural land. It works closely with farming communities and landowners on a range of land management issues, undertaking approximately 170 statutory duties across a wide range of interrelated areas. In addition, a number of councils own farms and agricultural land.
While we agree with the principle of adequately weighting the food production value of high value farmland in national planning policy, it should be recognised that doing so will have different impacts across the country, both for the protection of certain types of agricultural land over others, and future development needs.
Climate change mitigation: exploring a form of carbon assessment
With over 300 local authorities declaring a climate emergency, and nearly two thirds of councils in England aiming to be carbon neutral 20 years before the national target, councils are well placed to support Government to meet its net zero carbon ambitions by 2050.
Since net zero can only be achieved with decarbonisation happening in every place across the country – that’s every household, community and local economy – it will require local leadership.
Incorporating all measurable carbon demand created from plan-making and planning decisions is a big and complicated challenge, but it is also very important for councils to understand the sustainability and impact of future development plans.
The undertaking of such assessments, if councils are to do so as part of the plan-making and/or decision-making process, will be resource intensive and require new skills and training for both officers and members. Local Partnership’s greenhouse gas accounting tool is an example of the kind of support provided already to councils.
Climate adaptation and flood risk management
Councils are well-placed to lead the fight against and adaptation to climate change locally. Councils can set higher environmental standards for development schemes through local policies, but too often developers argue viability concerns and do not meet those standards, and are backed at appeal. It is important that councils wanting to achieve higher local standards on climate change mitigation and adaption than national requirements can do so without developers being able to argue viability as a reason for non-compliance.
Further, Defra is developing a range of policy initiatives such as Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) and a Land-Use Framework that will need to be developed and implemented as a coherent whole, with sufficient advice, guidance and resources for councils to deliver local objectives. All planning authorities must be better engaged by Defra in the LNRS process and embed thinking around land-use and developing multi-functionality.
The proposed amendments to the NPPF do not go far enough to underline the challenges posed by climate change. We would expect to see the NPPF go further in the revised framework, due to be consulted upon next year, to emphasise the role climate change mitigation and adaption will have in the future of local communities across the country. This could include guidelines on canopy tree cover providing shade, maximum water efficiency in buildings, and other measures creating more resilient homes and places.
As the role of the planning system evolves to take wider account of climate change mitigation and adaption, local authorities will need further resources to upskill officers and members to ensure positive outcomes for communities can be maximised.
Chapter 8: onshore wind and energy efficiency
Enabling the repowering of existing onshore wind turbines
Yes, we agree with the proposed change to make provision for future re-powering and maintenance of renewable and low carbon energy and heat systems.
Yes, we agree that applications for the re-powering and life-extension of existing renewable sites should ensure acceptable impacts and these impacts should be considered from the baseline existing on the site.
Introducing more flexibility to plan for new onshore wind deployment
We agree with the aim of making it easier for new installations to receive planning consent but do not agree that new installations will have a higher bar to reach than other energy installations (solar, off-shore and even some fossil fuel plants). The proposed change requires that applicants demonstrate that ‘the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been satisfactorily addressed and proposal has community support.’ There is no guidance on what ‘satisfactorily addressed’ means and how ‘community support’ can be proved.
We would suggest that the approval process should be in line with other developments, where the public have an opportunity to comment on proposals and all material planning considerations are taken into account.
Although on paper it would appear further routes to planning are being opened, alternative routes to planning including Local Development Orders, Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders are underused due to resourcing constraints and very difficult for communities to implement.
Further, we would suggest that local planning authorities should be allowed to allocate sites for wind power in local plans but planning applications should not be limited to those sites identified in those plans. Many councils are not resourced with the right expertise to allocate areas. This is a complex process as you need a site that is windy enough and is close enough to sufficient connection capacity. Industry is much better placed to bring forward viable sites, either through the planning process or through Local Area Energy Plans where they are being developed.
Barriers to energy efficiency
The proposed changes could go further to include more, true, energy efficiency measures such as solid wall insulation. The installation of Heat Pumps are not energy efficiency measures, they are potential measures to decarbonise heating, where the energy source is decarbonised.
Chapter 9: preparing for the new system of plan-making
In principle we agree with the proposed timelines for finalising local plans, mineral and waste plans and other strategies being prepared under the current NPPF. The Government should work with the Planning Inspectorate to determine the number of plans that may come forward and require examination during the proposed timeline – any capacity or resourcing concerns, or other delays to the examination and subsequent adoption of plans, should not result in unintended consequences to those plan-makers who met the stipulations of the proposed timeline.
While we welcome the Government’s intention to provide a grace period for local authorities to transition to the future planning system, we are concerned that there is currently a gap in the transitional arrangements for some local authorities based their year of local plan adoption.
The arrangements do not take account for those local authorities whose adopted and up to date plan is due for review from 2023 and early 2024, prior to these announced proposals coming into effect in late 2024. We support the proposed changes to the proposals, put forward by those local authorities, which would mitigate the risk of exposure to speculative applications whilst a new-style plan is prepared:
“Therefore, in addition to the arrangements described above, we also intend to set out that plans that will become more than five years old from the date of publication of the reform proposals on 22 December 2022, will continue to be considered ‘up-to-date’ for decision-making purposes for 30 months after the new system starts.”
Developing local plans is resource-intensive and expensive for councils, and given such significant changes are proposed to the NPPF and through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, many have paused their plan, plan review or the commencement of a new plan in order to take these into account. The Government is also proposing to consult on a full update to the NPPF in 2024 which may lead to a further hiatus in plan-making due to uncertainty. We believe that plans should be led by the most up to date evidence and would urge the Government to consider the impact on local plan preparation timelines of the release of the ONS population projections in mid-2024.
Any delays to the Bill receiving Royal Ascent or the new NPPF coming into effect, will delay plan-making further. The proposed 30-month period of developing new local plans should also be exclusive of any delay in introducing the new system, or delays on the part of the Planning Inspectorate at the examination stage.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the impact of the proposed transitionary arrangements with Ministers and Government officials. Further engagement must be done with local authorities to identify that no council falls through the gap in the transitional arrangements, thus ensuring they are put at no disadvantage or subject to measures which encourage speculative development which disenfranchise local communities and leaders.
We are broadly supportive of the proposed timeline for preparing neighbourhood plans under the future system.
No - Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) play a key role in the planning system and shaping communities, adding considerable detail to local policies resulting in higher quality development outcomes. SPD content varies widely yet often contains policies which are highly localised to the needs of the local area, and can include policies and guidance which can, for example, drive affordable housing or prevent the over proliferation of hot food takeaway units on high streets. They also support the aims and objectives of local plans and occasionally are written in partnership with other public sector bodies.
We do not agree with the proposed transitional arrangements for SPDs, in which existing SPDs will expire at the point when the local authority is required to adopt a new-style plan. We believe the proposed timeline is inappropriate because, should there be any delay to the implementation of the new planning system or circumstances out of the control of local planning authorities that delay plan-making, the mandatory expiration of SPDs which support an existing local plan could increase complexity to or undermine the local plan-led process.
We believe that the Government should amend its proposed timeline to allow existing and current SPDs to remain in force, supporting existing local plans, until a new-style plan is adopted.
It should also be noted that the expiration of SPDs, and the commencement of new Supplementary Plans, will have resourcing consequences for local planning authorities who will be focused on preparing new-style plans. Austerity measures have cut vital resources for council staff and capacity necessary to lead on and carry out this work. We are concerned that the capacity to develop new Supplementary Plans will be further challenged by the additional burden of examination, compared to the current process for SPDs.
Chapter 10: National Development Management Policies
To ensure councils can deliver the right types of homes in the right places with appropriate infrastructure, a local, plan-led system is integral. Therefore, proposals that seek to simplify and standardise the local plan process are welcome.
We recognise that nationalising policies that apply in all areas in the form of National Development Management Policies (NDMP’s) may speed up the production of plan-making and reduce duplication in local plans. They may also help to ‘level the playing field’ with standards and expectations of development across the country.
However, in the absence of any material detail on the type and scope of NDMP’s, beyond what is set out in the consultation, it is impossible to comment on the real impact they may have on local authorities to plan effectively at the local level.
We are therefore concerned that setting policies at national level will leave councils unable to tailor such policies to local circumstances. Flexibility must be built into the system to enable councils to respond to local, complex and changing circumstances.
We are even more concerned that a determination would be made in favour of the national policy, when there is conflict with the local development plan. This undermines a local, plan-led system and the Government’s aspiration to empower local leaders and communities. The local development plan is subject to robust and extensive testing during its preparation, which includes a thorough examination process to establish its soundness. Therefore, the development plan should carry full legal weight and particularly over policies and plans that are not subject to the same level of scrutiny.
We are also concerned that any proposed changes or to additions to NDMPs, following implementation, would be made solely by the incumbent Secretary of State, and not subject to the same rigorous consultation and community engagement as local policies are through the plan-making process. We would urge the Government to continually consult with local government, and other stakeholders, on the specific content of and changes to NDMP’s to ensure they are workable at local level.
Finally, we would highlight that the NPPF already contains a number of policies of which local authorities must take account of in their plan-making and decision-making. It would be good to understand if the Government simply seeks to streamline the NPPF to remove those polices, and retain the guiding principles, and to create a new document containing those policies as reformed NDMPs.
Chapter 11: enabling levelling up
We support the Government’s levelling-up agenda and believe that local leaders and communities are best placed to make decisions on their local areas. We agree that local leaders should be empowered to develop solutions that work for their communities, and believe that a local plan-led planning system is key to delivering this.
If the Government is serious about ensuring that local plans are not undermined, then we would urge the Government to revoke permitted development rights which disenfranchises local leaders and communities by continuing to undermine a local, plan-led system.
Further, more explicit reference should be made in national planning policy, and greater weight should be given in decision-making, to developments that contribute positively towards the wider determinants of health.
We would urge the Government to revoke permitted development rights which disenfranchise local leaders and communities by continuing to undermine a local, plan-led system. The loss of commercial space for housing through permitted development rights in an unplanned way does not drive economic growth or productivity. Further, as permitted development does not contribute to the delivery of affordable housing, more than 18,000 affordable houses have been lost as a result of office-to-residential conversions since 2015.
National planning policy already places weight on a brownfield first approach to plan-making.
Councils play an important role, alongside police and other partners, in protecting their communities and assuring that they are safe places to live. It is important that there is a co-ordinated holistic approach to tackling violence against women, girls and other vulnerable groups that is embedded across all Government departments and relevant agencies in a coherent way.
The LGA is therefore broadly supportive of the Government bringing forward proposals through the planning system to tackling violence against women, girls and other vulnerable groups in public spaces through, for example, lighting/street lighting policies. We would stress the need for Government to engage with councils and other relevant representative bodies as they develop these proposals, to ensure all aspects of the design of the public realm are cognisant of the need to make sure women, girls and other vulnerable groups feel safe in public spaces.
Chapter 13: practical changes and next steps
The LGA welcomes the digitisation of the planning system, seeking to make it more accessible and increasing the opportunity for engagement for all members of the community.
We recommend the Government continues to work closely with local government to shape the way in which national planning policy, and the wider planning system itself, is presented and accessed.
The LGA would urge the Government to undertake and publish a review of the equalities impact proposals contained in this consultation may have.