This week saw the government publishing its new national planning policy framework that is somehow intended to square the circle of promoting growth, localism and sustainability all at the same time.
The 50 page document will replace nearly a million words and more than a thousand pages of planning rules.
In his budget statement last week, chancellor George Osborne said that there would be a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. He described the new planning framework as “the biggest reduction in business red tape ever undertaken”.
Mr Osborne said: “Global businesses have diverted specific investments that would have created hundreds of jobs in some of the most deprived communities in Britain to countries like Germany and the Netherlands, because they couldn’t get planning permission here.”
On this basis, the new policy document is likely to be welcomed by the construction industry but will create uproar among conservation, countryside and heritage groups.
Not only will the new framework be hugely controversial, whatever it says, because planning always is, there could also be problems for local authorities.
Property consultant Drivers Jonas Deloitte says that local authorities who have produced local plans could find them inconsistent with, or even contradicting, national planning policy. Head of planning John Adams said: “It is great to see a new presumption in favour of sustainable development, as part of a suite of policies designed to promote growth. However, local authorities who have rightly pressed ahead with local plans as part of the government’s localism agenda could find them inconsistent with the framework.
“Many councils have been arguing that there needs to be a ‘transition’ period and that the national planning policy framework (NPPF) will need to be brought in incrementally, to allow local authorities to amend their plans to make them ‘NPPF-proof’. Others have argued that ‘growth’ cannot be put on hold and the NPPF policies will need to come into immediate effect and with full force. We will hopefully get some guidance on how to straddle this divide.”