The unveiling of the governments new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) at the end of March was always going to be contentious, tasked with the unenviable assignment of pleasing developers, land owners, environmental campaigners and the average householder. However, declared as the biggest shake up of the planning system since its creation in 1947, few would dispute the fact that changes to the previous system were long overdue.
So, has the government succeeded in its aim of creating an effective framework that is acceptable to the various opposing groups? Certainly, the streamlining process, reducing the number of pages in existing government guidance from over 1000 pages to around 60 pages in the NPPF, was a welcome first step. Furthermore, the NPPF offers measures designed to protect countryside, environmental and heritage assets, whilst cutting the red tape that has in the past frustrated developers. So far, the final version has been met with guarded approval from most quarters, including bodies such as the National Trust, CPRE and Friends of the Earth.
The overall thrust of the policy is pro-growth whilst taking account of the importance of sustainable development. According to the Minister for Planning Greg Clarke, the policy is about positive growth - making economic, environmental and social progress for this and future generations. With house building now at its lowest level since 1925, the aim is to move developments more quickly through the planning process, whilst incorporating measures that ensure the protection of the countryside.
Preserving our heritage