The property community has broadly welcomed the government's new National Planning Policy Framework published on Monday for consultation.
The government's aim is to greatly simplify planning policy documents from the 1,000-plus pages of separate guidance memos to one 52-page guide.
Rob Lucas, chief executive of Turley Associates, said: "The consultation is a brave attempt at simplifying what has become an unwieldy body of policy, reinstating the principle that well conceived development is a good and necessary thing. The presumption in favour of sustainable development is the most welcome part of the framework and is essential if the coalition government's pro-growth agenda is to be met. The approach to defining sustainable development is also rightly reclaimed to stand on the 'three pillars' of environmental, economic and social factors each of which is to be assessed and a balanced view taken in decision making.
"Local planning authorities should welcome this framework and should plan positively for new development. There are gaps in the consultation, but nothing that cannot be filled subsequently in supporting documents and short elaboration. And whilst we do not agree with every last word it crucially provides the policy basis for bringing forward the development we need – the jobs, homes and infrastructure."
Brian Simpson, chief executive of Wirral Partnership Homes, said: "It is good to see that the policy framework sees a presumption for sustainable development, and that this is defined not just as an environmental standard, but also in terms of the economy and on people and communities. The framework now seems to be favouring affordable housing being made as on-site provision, rather than the earlier concerns that off site provision or commuted sums may be more favoured. However, it will be interesting to see how this works in practice."
Robin Shepherd, partner at Barton Willmore, said: "We welcome the shorter and clearer statement of policy that the NPPF seeks to provide, as well as its concise and readable nature. There is no doubt that the pro-growth focus on delivery and making development happen has to be a good thing for the nation as a whole. The focus upon planning being a positive, proactive and collaborative process is also welcomed.
"However, we remain concerned that the effectiveness of the NPPF will depend on how it is interpreted in practice by local planning authorities and others involved in planning. There is still much scope for those opposing development to claim that proposed projects aren't sustainable – on a range of potential criteria – and use restrictive interpretations to subvert the positive, pro-growth policy. Unfortunately, despite the minister's intentions as expressed in his foreword, opponents of development could still use technical and academic interpretations of sustainability to block projects and therefore unless the NPPF has 'teeth' requiring LPA's to embrace the pro-growth agenda, the planning system could remain a deeply technical exercise, the preserve of the knowledgeable and the technically skilled.
"The draft NPPF clearly sees Local Plans as a single document for each Local Authority's area – indeed, it suggests that special justification needs to be given for splitting down into more than one document. It will take time for this requirement to become embedded into the planning system – the more so, since the new Local Plans will inevitably require more detail than has often been the case for Core Strategies in the LDFs. But this change is to be welcomed – there are many in the planning profession who felt the LDF process was just too cumbersome from the start – the return to a single, District or Borough-wide Local Plan will be far easier for all to follow and participate in."
Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: "It's vital there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development to balance the shift towards localism with the need for economic growth. This should send out a strong signal to local authorities that it is possible to grow the economy while behaving responsibly to our environment. I hope this change will help to attract the £200bn in investment we need to build our decarbonised energy future.
"Cutting back the reams of planning policy and guidance we currently have makes absolute sense. A clear, digestible guide to local planning decisions will ensure that local authorities are well-informed about national priorities and the need for development.
"The publication of this new framework is a chance for the Government to rebuild investor confidence in a planning system which has been shaken by a year of rapid reforms and ripped-up policy."