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National Planning Policy Framework

We welcome the Government’s publishing of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Here, we highlight the key points. Being the first revision since 2012, it has brought key reforms that will no doubt affect those with land and development plans in rural locations.

The Government has now crystallised its previous guidance on affordable housing exemptions and converted it into formal policy. Of particular note, Local Planning Authorities will no longer be required to deliver affordable homes on small-scale projects of 10 homes or less, this number is further reduced to five or less in rural locations. It is clear that the Government wishes to encourage new homes on these smaller sites, enhancing their currently marginal financial viability.

To consider – there will now be certainty in these situations as Local Planning Authorities will no longer have discretion as to its application and many will no doubt embrace the easing of the burden to provide affordable housing on these small-scale projects.

Encouragement for the building of affordable homes on so-called rural exception sites continues; a rural exception site being small rural areas which would have otherwise been considered inappropriate for development. This can be seen in the requirement for Local Planning Authorities to consider allowing open-market homes within such sites. The current pressures on housing may also be relieved by the introduction of entry-level exception sites, development aimed at meeting the needs of first time buyers or those looking to rent a first home at an affordable rent.

To consider – such schemes will be more financially viable than in the past, and will hold the potential to compliment or completely replace existing portfolios.

Support for the conversion of rural buildings into a range of alternate uses also move onwards. This will allow for farm diversification and the reuse of buildings into a range of new uses.

To consider – farmers will have new options when dealing with concerns as to unsustainable rural development.

Further to the above, there will be specific support for proposals to sub-divide existing properties out in open countryside. Property owners will be gifted increased flexibility in reflection of ever-changing local demands.

To consider – this could also allow for a fall-back justification on a replacement dwelling application, which will allow for the turning of one house into two new houses.

In addition, developers can now look to a material change of use of land as a new form of appropriate development within Green Belts; it is also confirmed that re-use of existing buildings will be a form of appropriate development.

To consider – this may provide greater opportunities for rural landowners to access additional revenue streams. 

Furthermore, Local Plan policies will now need to make allowances for the needs of rural businesses, given that they are not always able to be met in their own or adjoining; the prioritisation of urban areas when considering small-scale rural developments shall be forbidden.

To consider – increased policy support for rural business and the wider opportunity for commercial proposals in areas once proven financially difficult.

Given current times, where villages are bearing the burden for the ever-growing need for expansion, we welcome the Government’s requirement for local planning authorities to examine opportunities to support the growth and success of village communities, particularly if this could support service provision in the locality.

To consider – policy may look further into supporting village community development and may increase the opportunities for the allocation of sites in villages.

Lastly, Neighbourhood Plan policies are also to be given greater weight, and will provide those areas with Neighbourhood Plans in place greater protection against developments coming forward at times of housing shortages. However, there is still a requirement that the Neighbourhood Plan meets its identified housing requirements along with holding its own policies and allocations. There is also a stipulation that the planning authority hold at least three years of housing supply.

To consider – landowners may look to allocate land into Neighbourhood Plans, as communities will benefit as a whole from these additional protections.

For further details contact Paul Burbidge or Christian Collins