RIBA's take on the NPPF

Thursday 29 Mar 2012

The new UK planning laws come into effect

Yesterday the government released the finished National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) after a long and heavily debated approach to the recent review of UK planning laws. While the build up to the finalised document has had many people worried about the potential implications of relaxed planning regulations, the newly released NPPF has received rather positive responses across the board.

The issue of sustainability has been a key area of debate throughout and some still critics question the potential abuse of the new laws that will give projects the go ahead because of sustainable intent. Paul Smith, director of the Apex Planning Consultants has been rather critical of this aspect: "The arrival of the pared down Planning Policy Framework is no guarantee that things will get simpler. Much of the ire vented so far has focused on the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.

"The problem is that the definition of ‘sustainable’ is notoriously woolly, and different local authorities will inevitably interpret it in different ways. Once conflicting precedents are set, the waters will quickly be muddied.”

However, despite some continued criticism, the RIBA have strongly welcomed the changes after their significant and continuous calls for the government to recognise the ‘crucial importance of high-quality design’ were acknowledged. The RIBA recommended several amendments to the NPPF which have been taken on and included in the final draft. The following are RIBA’s contribution to the new NPPF:

A strengthening of policy on design and providing greater weight for the advice of design review panels
Enshrining high quality design as a core planning principle
Greater clarification over the definition of sustainable development
The announcement of transitional arrangements to allow local authorities to develop Local Plans
Strengthening of provisions to encourage the development of Brownfield sites

Ruth Reed (RIBA Past President and Chair of the RIBA Planning Group) said: “We are delighted that the Government has accepted many of the key recommendations put forward by the RIBA. Enshrining good design as a core planning principle and ensuring that the advice of design review panels has greater weight within the planning system will send a clear message to developers, planning officers and committees that poor quality development will no longer be accepted.

“However, policy alone will not deliver the good quality built environment that our future generations deserve. Although the transitional arrangements announced today are welcome, we hope that the Government will truly back the plan-led system by ensuring that local communities and local authorities have the support and resources they need to make the new system work.”

While the current reactions to the new NPPF have been reasonably positive, with many praising the government for its ‘common sense’ approach to the revisions of various planning laws, only time will tell whether architecture and development in the UK will be affected for the better of for the worse.

Matthew Goodwill

Key Facts:

Urban design
United Kingdom

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