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Updated National Planning Policy Framework

04 January 2024
An updated National Planning Policy Framework ("new NPPF") was published on 19 December 2023 by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. The new NPPF is effective immediately and builds upon the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act which became law on 26 October 2023.

The new NPPF is long awaited. It follows a brief update in September 2023 to the previous NPPF and the Government's consultation on national planning policy which opened in December 2022 and closed in March 2023.

In his speech supporting the new NPPF's launch, Michael Gove acknowledged that the housing delivery could be stronger, identifying that there is a resistance to new development in many parts of the country. He saw that there were five factors which were crucial to winning back support for new development, being "beauty, infrastructure, democracy, the environment and neighbourhood". The development of the new NPPF was said to be informed by these principles.

Of particular note:

  • The new NPPF confirms that the standard method of assessing housing need remains the basis which communities should plan for new homes, but the outcome of the standard method is an advisory starting point in plan making for establishing the housing requirements for an area. In his speech, Michael Gove noted that it "has always been the case that this number was supposed to be advisory for local authorities. But that principle has been honoured in the breach than in observance";
  • In respect of the Green Belt,  the new NPPF has sought to ensure it is clear there is no requirement on local authorities to review or alter Green Belt boundaries if this would be the only way to meet housing need unless it chooses to do so;
  • There is a reform of five year housing requirements; local authorities are not required to identify and update annually a five year rolling housing land supply if their adopted plan is less than five years old and it identified at least a five year supply of specific, deliverable sites at the time that its examination concluded. The intention of this is to create an incentive for local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan in place by granting additional protection from the presumption in favour of sustainable development, noting that this protection only applies to planning applications made from 19 December 2023;
  • The new NPPF takes away the 5% and 10% buffers applied to five-year housing land supply, maintaining the 20% buffer only for those local authorities that do not have an up-to-date plan in place and score below 85% on the Housing Delivery Test;
  • The new NPPF emphasises the role of beauty and placemaking in strategic policies, to be assisted through the adoption of appropriate design codes. Michael Gove specifically noted that the adoption of design codes has been made more easier and attractive by the Office for Place – the new public body which champions beauty in building; and
  • The level of protection from the presumption afforded by neighbourhood plans is increased from two to five years post adoption, provided the neighbourhood plan identifies at least one housing site.

As a result of the new NPPF being published, Mr Gove's assessment was that "there is now no excuse for any local authority not to have a plan in place, no excuse not to ensure that homes are delivered swiftly and efficient through that plan, and no excuse for leaving communities – and the next generation within the homes they need".

The new NPPF is found at the following link: National Planning Policy Framework - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Further Reading