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Development framework draft alarms planners

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Planners have slammed the draft of a policy framework supposed to guide development across England.

The National Planning Policy Framework is intended to be an overarching mechanism within which councils will make local plans.

Decentralisation minister Greg Clark last year appointed a four-strong ‘practitioners’ advisory group to prepare a draft, including Local Government Association environment and housing board chair Gary Porter (Con). The final version is due in July.

But the draft’s pro-development tone has alarmed the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Its introduction stated: “The notion that economic growth necessarily leads to environmental degradation must be firmly laid to rest by ensuring development is undertaken responsibly.”

The planning system “must operate to encourage growth and not act as an impediment”, it said.

RTPI president Richard Summers said he was “seriously concerned about the way in which the presumption in favour of sustainable development is expressed in their draft. 

“It is a denial of the concept of sustainable development to give over-riding emphasis to the approval of development proposals without ensuring that that they are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.”

Mr Summers added that the draft had “failed to meet the essential requirement to address the different needs and opportunities of different parts of the country”.

The draft said councils should create “succinct” local plans against which decisions could be made “with a high degree of certainty and efficiency”.

Supplementary policies going beyond the local plan should be used only exceptionally and not to “add to the financial burdens on development”.

Neighbourhood plans would have to be “in conformity with the strategic priorities” of local plans.

The Home Builders Federation said it would be “crucial that the [framework’s] definition of ‘sustainable development’ reflects the huge economic benefits of housing provision, as well as the vital social role housing plays for children, families and older generations”.

It also called for further clarity on how planning decisions that span local authority boundaries would be governed.

The draft’s other three authors were Pete Andrew, land and planning director of housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, Simon Marsh, acting head of sustainable development at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and John Rhodes, who represents the Major Developer’s Group on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s policy sounding board.

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