On the 24th of July, the government released the new National Planning Policy Framework – a crucial point of reference for the decisions of planners on new development applications.
When the first NPPF was published in 2012, it streamlined various disjointed policies into a single document. Six years on and with Brexit in full swing, the UK is in the middle of substantial economic and political shifts. Neighbourhood planning has taken off, there is more need for appropriate, affordable housing than ever and online services for digital planning are beginning to emerge.
So how does the new NPPF compare with regard to community engagement, housing, and the potential for digitally-enabled planning, and how have priorities changed?
A new focus on planning
While the new NPPF retains its overarching theme of ‘sustainable development,’ the most striking change is a renewed emphasis on plan making, planning process, and delivery of housing. In advance to its publication, organisations such as the Future Cities Catapult, the Ordnance Survey, and the Land Registry have driven discussions around delivering an increased number of appropriate homes in the right places. Programs such as Future of Planning may have helped to move planning processes to the front in the new NPPF, which aims to deliver better efficiency, transparency, and ’the effective use of land’ partly through better processes.
However, previous priorities such as the vitality of town centres, supporting healthy and safe communities, supporting sustainable transport and high-quality communications have been retained.
Implications for community engagement
Let’s look at how this affects community engagement in housing and residential developments:
In conclusion, the priorities in the new NPPF suggest a greater focus on delivering suitable and better quality developments in the right places, and one part of this is better direction through the planning system. There is a greater emphasis on the role of plan making and the processes that create good outcomes, such as early engagement supported by accessible, digital tools. The document encourages plan making that is efficient and transparent while delivering better quality or suitability of projects coming forward.