New National Planning Framework: impacts of promoting sustainable development

By James Kelly.

The new national framework for planning applications was published March 27th 2012. This is a key part of the reforms to make the planning system less complex and more accessible, to protect the environment and to promote sustainable growth.

The Rt Hon MP Greg Clarke announced the framework in the House of Commons. The reforms to planning policy have 3 fundamental objectives:

  • To put unprecedented power in the hands of communities to shape the places in which they live;
  • To better support growth to give the next generation the chance that our generation has had to have a decent home, and to allow the jobs to be created on which our prosperity depends; and
  • To ensure that the places we cherish – our countryside, towns and cities – are bequeathed to the next generation in a better condition than they are now.

This amounts to a radical change to the planning process that has seen the previous planning guidance of more than 1000 pages condensed to a little over 50. The framework has been designed this way to simplify the planning process and application decisions.

The key message in the national planning policy framework is sustainability. The definition of the term sustainable development is a benchmark that any developer will be basing any future planning applications on – “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” . That means that if a development is deemed sustainable it will be approved in accordance to the framework, unless negative impacts outweigh the positives.

The national planning policy framework encourages effective use of land by reusing land that has previously been developed (brownfield land). This must be seen as a massive boost to rural economies and infrastructure. However, as the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive recast comes in to play from 2017 onwards, I would assume that we will see a huge increase in refurbishments of existing buildings. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive states that buildings performing below a certain level will not be suitable to let. What  remains to be seen is whether new build or refurbishment of these existing buildings is a more viable solution. It will be down to the Local Authority to deem what is more sustainable.

The introduction of the national planning policy framework has strengthened the ‘high street first’ policy of the government. Developers wanting to build out of town will have to prove that there are no suitable available sites in the town centre that would have a detrimental effect on the development. Large distribution centres and manufacturing facilities would remain unaffected but this could have an impact on out of town retail parks and shopping centres.

However, planning policy itself is not enough. Sustainable development has been a feature of the planning process for years and local authorities still under-deliver on their requirements. That framework is in effect from its publication, there will however be a period of transition of 12 months to allow local authorities time to put systems in place. This will of course mean more resources are required and a “buy in” at grass roots level.

Overall the final version of the national planning policy framework has been welcomed  favorably by most parties. With a condensed document, there are going to be areas that need to be revised and expanded upon. Its implementation will rely heavily on local authorities. Sustainability has been a feature of the planning focus for many years, only now is it being focused on as a primary objective. My concern is that economic factors are also considered by our local authorities, after all employment figures also count towards a sustainable future for us all.


James Kelly, Area Sales Manager, Kingspan Insulated Panels,


1 thought on “New National Planning Framework: impacts of promoting sustainable development

  1. Interesting post James. I’d love to think that the NPPF is all about sustainability, but I think, reading between th lines, it is more about the Tory ‘Localism’ and cutting red tape policies. I think the risks are that there will be no broadly consistent approach to planning applications across local authorities. There will be some mad planning approaches from some quite mad councils. And I think there will be an increase in courruption at local level as big developers can now influence policy locally. In my opinion planning timelines need shortening drastically, so we get decisions quicker; but the current criteria used are broadly sound

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