The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was revised on 20 July 2021, following a consultation on proposed revisions published in January. Perhaps the most notable focus in the 2021 NPPF, is the greater focus on design quality and ‘beauty’ in the planning system.
There have been substantial revisions to Chapter 12 “Achieving Well Designed Places”, now included is the requirement for Local Planning Authorities to prepare design guides or codes consistent with the National Model Design Code. These can be prepared at area-wide, neighbourhood, or site-specific levels.
There is also a broad range of amendments to policies relating to sustainability, flood risk and biodiversity. The definition of sustainable development, which underpins the planning system, now includes ‘17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development in the period to 2030. These address social progress, economic well-being, and environmental protection.’ as agreed by members of the United Nations.
The NPPF has always identified three overarching objectives to achieving sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental. The defined objectives of these have been updated with ‘beauty’ becoming a requirement under social (‘beautiful and safe places’), although ‘beauty’ is not specifically defined. The wording in the environmental objective has been reinforced to include ‘protect and enhance’ the environment and ‘improve biodiversity’ rather than ‘contribute to’ protection and ‘helping to improve’ biodiversity.
Other changes include the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ (paragraph 11a) to include reference to climate change and within Article 4 Directions, guidance has been made to reflect changes to permitted development rights in relation to creating new homes from non-residential properties. There is also additional emphasis on restricting the use of Article 4 Directions to the ‘smallest possible geographical area.’ and a greater emphasis is placed upon ensuring that new streets are tree-lined and that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere within new development. Guidance on the removal or alterations to statues and monuments has been updated to increase protection to these assets.