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The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will it affect your community?

The government is reviewing an important piece of policy that could change the shape of the English countryside for ever. It is rewriting the National Planning Policy Framework – the rules that determine what kind of houses are built, where they go, and whether it is communities or developers who are at the heart of those decisions. 

The outcome will have a huge impact on issues such as safeguarding protected landscapes, the provision of rural affordable housing and guaranteeing that local communities’ voices are heard on developments in their area. 

The current proposals, however, just continue the government’s failed approach to housing that has done nothing to help people afford homes. As it stands, people still won’t get the affordable homes they need, while more countryside will be lost unnecessarily - permanently. We need to solve the housing crisis and protect our countryside, but this just isn’t the way to do it.

We only have a few weeks to make a difference, so please email your MP today asking them to make sure that changes made are good for communities and the countryside we love. 

What is CPRE Sussex most concerned about?

The role of the planning system is to pursue sustainable development, in order to meet people’s needs for decent housing, productive farmland, and access to green spaces. With good planning, it is possible to build the homes the country needs, while also protecting our countryside. ‘Sustainable development’, however, needs to be defined more robustly in planning. CPRE Sussex is calling for a new NPPF which will:

  • Protect our countryside for current and future generations, including the protection of nationally important landscapes, conservation of wildlife and enhancement of natural capital
  • Support local democracy by adhering to neighbourhood and realistic local plans
  • Ensure high quality, well designed development based on genuine need not market demand.
  • Deliver more affordable homes by closing legal loopholes that put developer profits first.

Protecting Our Countryside

We welcome the recognition that ancient woodland and other irreplaceable habitats need to be better protected.

We want a clear statement that high housing demand and aspirations for growth, in and of themselves, do not constitute a reason for building within Areas of outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks or destroying irreplaceable habitats. Local authorities facing significant policy or environmental constraints on development should not be encouraged to plan for growth or meet unrealistically high housing targets unless there are suitable unconstrained opportunities available. It is crucial that the wording ‘have the highest status of protection’ remains in the NPPF, as not having that clarity could potentially open up debates about the level of planning protection. Paragraph 170 does have additional new wording: ‘The scale and extent of development within designated areas should be limited’. This is welcome, but ‘scale’ and ‘extent’ is likely to be argued by developers e.g. at appeal. Unless Government issues updated guidance which gives a steer on these terms it could potentially be defined by case law in the coming years. We want greater protection for wildlife and for planning decisions to be based on ‘up to date ecological information.’

Supporting Local Democracy

We welcome the addition of text in paragraph 12 of the draft NPPF, which clarifies the primacy of local and neighbourhood plan policies in determining planning applications, and the improved clarity on the relationship between strategic policies in local plans and more detailed policies in neighbourhood plans.

We want councils and local communities to be empowered to say no to bad development which does not conform to neighbourhood or local plans, or meet all the aspirations of the NPPF. Where a council falls behind on housing delivery, the focus should be on getting consented sites built, not releasing even more land for development. The new housing delivery test should not be used to punish and disempower councils who rightly seek to defend those areas which the NPPF requires them to protect from unsustainable development. We also urge the government to specify that local plan reviews must take into account the wishes of communities who have prepared their own neighbourhood plan and also protect neighbourhood plans for longer than the 2 year period suggested, even if there is not a 3 year supply of housing.

Ensuring high quality, well-designed development

We welcome the government’s recognition of the importance of ‘good design’ and the strengthening of existing policies on achieving places with integrity and identity.

We want solutions which focus on high quality development, rather than growth at all costs. Housing targets should be set at realistic levels and based on local need, availability of appropriate sites and capacity of house-builders, rather than arbitrary indicators of demand based on ‘market signals’.

Delivering Affordable Homes

We welcome the rhetoric on developer accountability and the requirement that viability assessments be publicly available.

We want the government to recognise the continuing importance of social homes and affordable rented homes in meeting the needs of people who cannot afford even sub-market home ownership, especially in rural communities where average incomes are lower. Government support for starter homes and other forms of low-cost home ownership should not come at the expense of providing genuinely affordable, decent rented accommodation for those who cannot afford to buy. We also urge the government to reconsider the proposed introduction of an ‘entry level exception sites’ policy, which we fear will lead to more unaffordable ‘executive homes’ being built on greenfield sites, in the guise of cross-subsidisation for entry level housing. Finally, we call on the government to remove references to the minimum profits that developers should expect to receive.

Our Consultation Response

CPRE Sussex campaigns for a beautiful and living countryside. We work to promote good development and protect the countryside from bad development. Our response to the government’s NPPF consultation, which closes on Thursday 10th May 2018 can be found in the downloads section at the bottom of this page.

What can I do to help?

If you have missed the 10th May deadline to respond to the new NPPF then you can still make a difference by writing to your MP to urge them to write to James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, or emailing James Brokenshire directly: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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