News Update – December 2023: Government issues updated National Planning Policy Framework

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As you may have heard in the mainstream media, the Government yesterday published a significant update to the NPPF which is the overarching national planning policy document for England. This followed a consultation earlier in the year. The new document can be found here.

Whilst the dust is still settling on the newly issued update, many in the development sector are interpreting the document as providing greater flexibility for local authorities to move away from meeting stringent housing targets especially in areas constrained by Green Belt or statutory landscape protection (e.g AONBs).  Significant questions arise as to whether the updates will do anything to increase housing delivery, or indeed will have the opposite effect, on the back of recent significant falls in housebuilding, with third quarter housing completions in 2023 being 15% lower than the equivalent quarter a year earlier (source: NHBC).

Amongst a raft of changes local planning authorities are not required to identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites to provide a minimum of five years’ worth of housing where they have a recently adopted plan (less than five years old) and where the plan identified such a supply of sites at the time of its examination.

A further notable addition to the Framework is the lowering of the 5 year land supply requirement to 4 years where an emerging plan has been submitted for examination or has reached Regulation 18 or 19 stage. This applies for a two year period from publication of the updated Framework.

The upshot of the various changes is that in some areas, where housing supply shortfalls are very significant, the impacts on decision making may be quite modest, but in other areas where shortfalls are more moderate, we may see a rush for authorities to publish draft Local Plans in order to re-set the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The changes are anticipated to be followed by further evolution of the planning system throughout 2024, with new National Development Management Policies awaited, along with further updates to permitted development rights expected.

The updates add further nuance, and potential complication within the planning system. If you are unsure if the changes will affect your land or property interests or future projects then don’t hesitate to contact us for further advice.