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Industry backs “pro-growth” planning framework

30 March 2012

Industry heads have given their broad backing to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which came into force this week in an effort to boost growth and simplify the planning system.

Planning minister Greg Clark unveiled the “pro-growth” framework - whittled down to a 59 page document from its 1,000-page predecessor - which includes a central presumption in favour of sustainable development and enshrines a brownfield and town centre first policy.

The planning framework also hands control of housing plans to local authorities and those authorities with a local plan will be given a year to up date it to reflect changes in the new document.

“I hope that they will find it a breath of fresh air,” said Clark. “It clears away a lot of the bureaucracy and the excessive verbiage that I think has plagued the planning system.

“It makes for a very clear approach that says we should be regarding development as positive if it’s sustainable – and that’s a very positive approach throughout the document to allow us to get on with building the homes and commercial premises we need. All my conversations with people in the industry seem to be supportive of that.”

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “Future generations will be thankful that the Government has held its nerve on this. Having a presumption in favour of sustainable development gets the balance right between supporting jobs and growth, and serving the interests of the environment and society.

“The new framework hands the responsibility back to local communities to decide where new homes, businesses and infrastructure to support them should be built. So the onus is on local authorities to work with people and businesses in their area to develop suitable plans as quickly as possible.”

Richard Tamayo, Commercial Director at NHBC said: “We welcome the publication of the NPPF. Our own registration figures reflect the drastic need for more new homes; under 115,000 new homes were registered with NHBC last year – a fall of more than 40% since the height of the market in 2007 (200,700).  At current levels, the industry is building less than half the number of new homes needed to meet the challenge of household growth in the UK.”

However, a pared down planning policy framework is no guarantee that things will get simpler, warned Paul Smith, director of Apex Planning Consultants: "Much of the ire vented so far has focused on the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. The problem is that the definition of "sustainable" is notoriously woolly, and different local authorities will inevitably interpret it in different ways. Once conflicting precedents are set, the waters will quickly be muddied.

"What is clear is this document does not give carte blanche to developers intent on building on green belt land. Opponents who raise the spectre of urban sprawl are being disingenuous at best and misleading at worst."

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