Local Planning and the revised NPPF
This week the Government published its revised National Planning Policy Framework. This will be important in our area where so much new housing is planned.
I believe there are a number of reasons why communities reject new development. They feel that housing is imposed on them and that they have insufficient control over where development goes. This why neighbourhood planning, which helps to return that control, is so important.
The Framework incorporates the policy changes which I won in December 2016 to strengthen neighbourhood plans. However, I believe that further measures will be needed to ensure that plans are not undermined, including by speculative development, and I will keep pressing for this.
Communities also feel that, too often, development comes without the necessary additional local infrastructure to match, putting pressure on important services such as school places, GP surgeries and local roads.
I believe part of the problem is that different authorities are responsible for planning (district councils) and providing the infrastructure (the County Council, national bodies like the NHS, and government departments). This needs to be better co-ordinated.
But a third reason why I think communities reject new development is that so often it is ugly. So I welcome a new emphasis in the new Framework on good design.
Permissions will be able to be refused for developments that are poorly designed and that fail to improve the quality and character of an area. The guidance also makes it clear that communities need to be involved at the earliest stages when setting out a design vision.
The Framework will increase the protection for ancient woodland and other “irreplaceable habitats”. Only in wholly exceptional cases will development which results in the loss or deterioration of these be allowed, and then there must be a compensation strategy.
The guidance makes clear that such exceptional cases will include infrastructure projects, including those which are nationally significant, “where the public benefit would clearly outweigh the loss or deterioration of habitat.”
This means that important infrastructure such as the Arundel bypass can go ahead even if there is some loss of woodland, provided that there is replanting to compensate for it.
I have always argued that, overall, the bypass will benefit the environment by taking traffic away from the historic town of Arundel, the South Downs and its villages.