NPPF July 2021 Revision, A Guide to What has Changed

The National Planning Policy Framework which sets out the government’s planning policies for England was revised on the 20th of July 2021.

The revisions increased the focus on design quality, not only for sites individually but for places as a whole. Terminology is also now more firm on protecting and enhancing the environment and promoting a sustainable pattern of development. Additionally, policies have been revised relating to opting out of permitted development, the use of masterplans and design codes and the important contribution of trees in new developments.

This guide will therefore outline the key changes in each chapter of the NPPF.

Chapter 2: Achieving Sustainable Development

Chapter 2 now acknowledges that members of the UN have agreed to pursue the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development in the period to 2030. Minor edits have been made to phrasing, setting out clearly that the environmental objective is now to protect and enhance, and to improve biodiversity, where before the requirement was simply to contribute to these matters.

Chapter 3 – Plan Making

The main edits to this chapter focus on the design quality of places, rather than just the individual development. Additionally, a new insertion to paragraph 22 sets out that “Where larger scale developments such as new settlements or significant extensions to existing villages and towns form part of the strategy for the area, policies should be set within a vision that looks further ahead (at least 30 years), to take into account the likely timescale for delivery”.

Chapter 4 – Decision Making

The conditions in which the use of Article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights are now more clearly set out. For non-residential uses, this should be limited to where Article 4 is necessary to avoid wholly adverse impacts. In other cases, it should be limited to where Article 4 direction is necessary to protect local amenity or well-being of the area. In all cases, robust evidence is needed.

Chapter 5: Delivering a Sufficient Supply of Homes

In regard to identifying land for homes, an amendment to paragraph 70 (previously 69) now states that neighbourhood planning groups should give particular consideration to the opportunities for allocating small and medium-sized sites.

An insertion into paragraph 73 (previously 72) also states that supply of large numbers of new homes should be supported by a genuine choice of transport modes. Reference to the quality of places to be created is also noted again in paragraph 73, as well as ensuring that appropriate tools such as masterplans and design guides or codes are used to secure a variety of well-designed and beautiful homes to meet the needs of different groups in the community.

Chapter 8: Promoting healthy and safe communities

Amendments have been made to ensure pedestrian and cycle routes are attractive and well-designed. Also, a new insertion as paragraph 98 requires that local authorities, in regard to public service infrastructure, should work proactively and positively with promoters, delivery partners and statutory bodies to plan for required facilities and resolve key planning issues before applications are submitted.

Chapter 9: Promoting Sustainable Transport

Similarly, to chapter 8, it is reiterated that walking and cycling networks should be attractive and well-designed.

Paragraph 110 (previously 108) which sets out what should be ensured when assessing sites that may be allocated for in development plans or specific applications for development, has an additional point inserted as point C which reads as follows the design of streets, parking areas, other transport elements and the content of associated standards reflects current national guidance, including the National Design Guide and the National Model Design Code”.

Chapter 11: Making Effective Use of Land

An insertion has been made to paragraph 125 (previously 123) which relates to achieving appropriate densities at a development. The new text states that “area-based character assessments, design guides and codes and masterplans can be used to help ensure that land is used efficiently while also creating beautiful and sustainable places”.

Chapter 12: Achieving Well-designed Places

This chapter has undergone a significant amount of editing. A much bigger focus is placed on making ‘beautiful’ and ‘sustainable’ places, and the use of plans, design policy, guidance and codes is hugely encouraged. For example, Paragraph 128 (previously 126) sets out that “all local planning authorities should prepare design guides or codes consistent with the principles set out in the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code, and which reflect local character and design preferences.”

Another important insertion is paragraph 131, which sets out that important contribution trees make to the character and quality of urban environments. It requires that planning policies and decisions should ensure that new streets are tree-lined and that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere in developments. It also sets out a requirement that appropriate measures are in place to secure the long-term maintenance of newly planted trees and existing trees are retained wherever possible.

The importance of policies and guidance is reiterated at paragraph 134, which states development that is not well designed should be refused “especially where it fails to reflect local design policies and government guidance on design”.

Chapter 14: Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change, Flooding and Coastal Change

Edits in this chapter focus on making sure plans take into account all sources of flood risk. It is also encouraged to use opportunities provided by improvements in green infrastructure, and to make as much use as possible of natural flood management techniques. Development should be appropriately flood resistant and resilient “such that, in the event of a flood, it could be quickly brought back into use without significant refurbishment (paragraph 166b)”.

Additionally, the Flood Risk Vulnerability Classification is refenced as newly provided at Annex 3 of the NPPF.

Chapter 15: Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment

Edits to this chapter make it clear that permission should be refused for major development applications within National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty other than in exceptional circumstances.

Additionally a new insertion has been made as paragraph 198, that sets out that local authorities should, when considering applications to remove or alter a historic statue, plaque, memorial or monument (listed or not), have regard to the importance of their retention in situ and, where appropriate, of explaining their historic and social context rather than removal.

Annex 1: Implementation

Edits set out changes to policy application, including The Housing Delivery Test.

Annex 2: Glossary

Provides additional definitions, including ‘Article 4 direction’ and ‘Design Guide’.

Annex 3: Flood Risk Vulnerability Classification

This is the Flood Risk Vulnerability Classification referenced in Chapter 14. The subheadings of the Annex comprise: Essential Infrastructure, Highly Vulnerable, More Vulnerable, Less Vulnerable, Water Compatible Development.

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