MHCLG publishes new changes to National Planning Policy Framework

Following its technical consultation of October 2018, the Government has issued new revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which tinker with the operation of the NPPF in several respects.

Alongside the revised NPPF, the Government has also updated and reissued its guidance to Councils on carrying out housing and economic needs assessments. In that document is found the standard method for assessing housing, known as the standard method since its inclusion in the NPPF and planning practice guidance as part of the substantial edit that took place earlier in 2018.

The changes introduced into what is now the February 2019 NPPF follow the conclusions of the Government response to the technical consultation referred to above, which can be read here. In summary, the key amendments are:

  • In relation to housing supply, footnote 37 is clarified to state that where local housing need is used to assess whether there is a 5 year supply of housing, the standard method should be used.
  • Separately, as referred to above the guidance concerning housing and economic needs assessments has also been amended to make clear that, when setting the baseline as the first step of the calculation of need, 2014 (and not the more recent 2016) based household projections should be used. This is strongly reinforced in the section addressing what happens if a different method is used (in those instances the authority must show exceptional local circumstances for deviating from the standard method). To quote: ‘Any method which relies on using the 2016-based household projections will not be considered to be following the standard method…as explained above it is not considered that these projections provide an appropriate basis for use in the standard method’.
  • Again concerning housing supply, the definition of ‘deliverable’ in Annex 2 NPPF is recast so that non-major development sites with outline permission should be treated in the same way as all sites with detailed planning permission, i.e. they should be considered deliverable unless permission expires, or there is clear evidence they won’t be delivered within 5 years.
  • Para 177 of the NPPF, which touches on appropriate assessment and habitats, is amended to be unambiguous that the presumption in favour of sustainable development will not apply where there are effects on a habitats site unless an appropriate assessment concludes that negative impacts will not occur

Following the significant revisions to the NPPF that took place in 2018, the amendments recently issued are, by comparison, tinkering. However, they may demonstrate a new approach to the NPPF, in ensuring it keeps pace both with case law (for example, the People Over Wind case leading to the para 177 changes) but also reacts to practical consequences of, in this case, a new set of household projections that might undermine how the NPPF operates.

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