Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: Reforms to National Planning Policy.
Dear Consultation Team,
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Government’s consultation on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: reforms to national planning policy.
I am writing to you in my capacity as the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester and Portfolio Lead for the Places for Everyone joint plan. I must place on record my frustration at the Government’s approach to these proposed changes, and in particular the context in which the consultation was introduced.
You will be aware that nine of the Greater Manchester Authorities are engaged in the production of a joint Local Plan, Places for Everyone. This plan is at a late stage, with examination hearings currently taking place. The plan sets out an ambitious approach to the districts’ growth and, importantly, is based on a robust and comprehensive evidence base. A consequence of our review of land supply and housing need is that it is appropriate to release Green Belt if we are to plan for growth sustainably. The introduction of a new national policy approach to Green Belt, which will apparently be introduced in the middle of our joint plan’s examination, has created considerable uncertainty across our plan area. Given the importance that government place on plan-making role as confirmed in a letter to the Mayor of Greater Manchester from the Housing Minister in December 2022, this is a remarkably counterproductive approach to policy from our perspective.
As you will note from our responses to your questions, we do not have a significant issue with much of the content of your proposals. Some of the changes around planning for the delivery of homes seem intended to provide further autonomy to local authorities. The Places for Everyone authorities welcome this direction of travel. In common with many other local authorities, we have found the pressure of five-year land supply and housing delivery calculations an unwelcome distraction.
At the same time, we recognise the significance of the housing crisis facing communities in all parts of the country. The provision of more truly affordable and accessible homes is a key element of any response to this crisis. The Places for Everyone authorities will continue to plan responsibly for new homes, ensuring sites continue to come forward.
We do have concerns that the changes proposed to national policy may change some councils’ housing strategies and result in an overall reduction in the delivery of homes. Government has reinstated its commitment to building 300,000 homes per annum by the mid 2020’s and the consultation proposes no changes to the standard method for calculating Local Housing Need. The national LHN requirement and associated methodology was established to ensure every Local Authority played their part, it would seem this fairness & equity issue concerning development / sustainable development is being watered down in the consultation proposals.
We support a planning system in which local planning authorities have a greater say over what developments come forward. If such a system is to remain effective in meeting housing needs, changes in policy to manage development must be accompanied by moves that provide councils with the resources to ensure sustainable developments can be delivered. The Places for Everyone authorities are continuing to develop strategic relationships with key private sector development partners and Homes England to accelerate development across the city. The constructive approach of Government agencies in this process is welcomed and should be expanded to enable development supported by councils to come forwards, reducing the need to consider development in places where there is less community support. We are heartened by the increasing emphasis your consultation indicates for social rented housing, and hope that this presages an increase in the resources made available to support this vital tenure that has been greatly underfunded, particularly due to cuts since 2010.
We are committed to continuing with our joint plan, including proposals for Green Belt release. This is because we believe that meeting housing needs is an important duty on government at all levels. We also believe that our plan is the most sustainable approach. We recognise the huge value all our communities place on their green spaces. We are also clear that our most valuable green spaces are not always our Green Belt. The policy approach proposed in your consultation seeks to make it far harder to release Green Belt land and thereby place even more important green spaces at risk of development. This would result in planning outcomes that we would consider very unsustainable.
Whilst it is acknowledged that planning for housing is very important, it is concerning that the NPPF proposals are exclusively related to housing. PfE deals not only with housing but is a strategy / plan for jobs / economy, homes and the environment. It's important we continue to maintain this emphasis on the triple bottom line, social, economic & environmental.
The consultation covers a wide range of issues beyond those relating to the issues raised in my letter. Our responses to these are covered in our substantive submission. There are many matters for which more detail is needed, and we will clearly respond in more detail when the Government puts forward its worked-up proposals on these.
Paul Dennett, City Mayor, Salford.
Deputy Mayor for Greater Manchester, Portfolio Lead for Homelessness, Healthy Lives and Quality Care.
Places for Everyone Plan response to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: reforms to national planning policy consultation.
Q1. Do you agree that local planning authorities should not have to continually demonstrate a deliverable 5-year housing land supply (5YHLS) as long as the housing requirement set out in its strategic policies is less than 5 years old?
Yes. It is agreed that this will provide a strong incentive to agree a local plan and supports the aims of the planning system being plan-led. The proposed change will also help to prevent speculative and otherwise unacceptable developments being imposed on communities through planning by appeal where the presumption in favour of sustainable development applies where the LPA cannot demonstrate a 5YHLS for reasons outside of its direct control (for example broader economic and housing market issues that mean the supply of housing coming forward reduces to below the required levels). Once adopted the housing requirement in Places for Everyone Plan (PfE) will count as the up-to-date strategic housing policy for the nine PfE districts and will negate the need to demonstrate a five-year land supply (5YHLS) for a period of up to five years post adoption. Simplification of the operation of the 5YHLS demonstration requirements is also welcome in principle.
Q2. Do you agree that buffers should not be required as part of 5YHLS calculations (this includes the 20% buffer as applied by the Housing Delivery Test)?
Yes agree, the requirement to include a buffer in the 5YHLS calculations artificially inflates the amount the land required to be shown to be deliverable within five years. In terms of decision taking these buffers are arbitrary and impose a duty on the LPA to identify additional land above what is required for reasons that are outside of its control. The removal of these buffers will provide further flexibility in the planning and delivery of housing.
Q3. Should an oversupply of homes early in a plan period be taken into consideration when calculating a 5YHLS later on or is there an alternative approach that is preferable?
Yes agree, an oversupply of homes early in the plan period should be taken into consideration when calculating a 5YHLS later on in order to remove any penalty for accelerating delivery early in the plan period. The inability to account for oversupply early in the plan period could result in the need to release additional land later on, when the housing requirement has already been met.
It should be made clear in the NPPF and the Planning Practice Guide that this is separate to counting previous over supply when setting out housing land supply in Local Plan policies.
Q4. What should any planning guidance dealing with oversupply and undersupply say?
Given the importance of this issue, the NPPF should provide key points about the principle of oversupply and undersupply rather than it only being in planning guidance.
The planning guidance should set out the further detail, (for example the earliest point at which historic oversupply can be considered in calculating the five-year housing land requirement) which would make clear how under and oversupply should be factored into calculations.
Q5. Do you have any views about the potential changes to paragraph 14 of the existing Framework and increasing the protection given to neighbourhood plans?
Q6. Do you agree that the opening chapters of the Framework should be revised to be clearer about the importance of planning for the homes and other development our communities need?
Yes agree, whilst planning for homes is important, the need to plan for economic growth, jobs, infrastructure and community services, and all other types of land use also needs to be acknowledged. Notwithstanding this proposed change it is noted that the NPPF changes as proposed appear to be almost entirely focused on housing.
The consultation document identifies that government is seeking views on potential changes to planning practice guidance as well in relation to this issue. The changes to the guidance are not set out and so the PfE authorities cannot provide any comments in relation to this.
Q7. What are your views on the implications these changes may have on plan-making and housing supply?
It is considered that notwithstanding the proposed changes to the opening chapters, some of the more substantive changes being proposed to NPPF risk seeing a reduction in new homes being planned for and subsequently delivered.
This is due to the fact that plan-making could be slowed due to:
- The incentive LPAs will be given to revise plans that have been subject to regulation 18 or 19 consultation to take into account the proposed changes (i.e only needing to demonstrate a 4-year supply should they choose to make revisions for a period of 2 years from which changes to the Framework take effect).
- The need to debate housing requirements in more detail where the standard LHN methodology is not being pursued due to exceptional local circumstances.
- The need to consider land supply at local plan examinations in more detail in the context of a 5YHLS not having to be demonstrated if there is an up-to-date strategic plan in places that deals with requirements.
Given it will be explicit in the Framework that the outcome of the standard method is ‘the advisory starting point for establishing a housing requirements’ there will be considerable pressure from local communities on LPAs to demonstrate that there are exceptional local circumstances to have a lower figure than that produced by the standard method. Should such exceptional circumstances be demonstrated through the examination process, this will of course also lead to a lower housing supply coming forward in many districts than was assumed as part of setting the 300,000 homes national target, which is of course still a stated national government aim.
Continual changes to national policy on housing need e.g. the consultation refers to are view of the implications of the standard method when the next set of household projections are published in 2024, creates uncertainty to local authorities seeking to progress plans.
The basic economics of supply and demand will inevitably mean that this will continue to exacerbate the homelessness and housing crisis unless this is going to be bolstered by a huge council and social house building programme funded by government.
Q8. Do you agree that policy and guidance should be clearer on what may constitute an exceptional circumstance for the use of an alternative approach for assessing local housing needs? Are there other issues we should consider alongside those set out above?
The consultation is clear that local authorities are expected to continue to use the standard method as a starting point, unless there are exceptional circumstances. It is agreed that more clarity should be provided on what would constitute exceptional circumstances that would justify the use of an alternative approach to assessing local housing needs. There should also be additional clarity provided on the circumstances where it is appropriate to plan for more or less than the local housing needs.
The examples given in the consultation document (larger numbers of older people living on islands, or large numbers of students) seem to be based on a premise that an exceptional circumstance could be a local population structure which significantly differs from the norm, which will only be found in specific locales and requires particular accommodation requirements.
Q9. Do you agree that national policy should make clear that Green Belt does not need to be reviewed or altered when making plans, that building at densities significantly out-of-character with an existing area may be considered in assessing whether housing need can be met, and that past over-supply may be taken into account?
Green Belt is already the most restrictive designation in the English planning system. It is a planning policy designation unrelated to environmental quality or value. Green Belt land may not be the most valuable open space in a community or place. Increasing the protection for Green Belt land will result in more pressure on other open space, which may have greater value and utility to local communities. Where a robust assessment of local needs and a review of local land supply has been undertaken and this concludes that Green Belt release may be the most sustainable way of meeting development needs, national policy should make it clear that this is appropriate.
The proposed changes are likely to have the opposite effect, as it is highly likely that these changes could result in more challenge to plans particularly where authorities are proposing to meet locally arising needs to help address the housing crisis, (including meeting its own target of 300,000 homes per annum) or deliver above ‘need’ to meet growth ambitions and the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda. NPPF needs to be equally explicit that in these instances, meeting housing need can be considered as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to release Green Belt land.
Further amendments to national policy are necessary to make it clear that this approach applies to other valuable green spaces, especially in urban areas, given the proposed changes that increase pressure for housing development in towns and cities. Guidance would therefore be helpful to confirm that if an LPA decides not to build in the Green Belt to meet housing need, this should not result in additional pressures to release urban green infrastructure and rather, if those areas have already been properly considered, the decision to not go into the Green Belt will simply result in the relevant housing requirement not being met.
In the context of protecting the most valuable greenspace (not purely Green Belt), the proposed change that would allow the need to build at densities significantly out-of-character with an existing area to be considered in assessing whether housing need can be met is hard to understand. Building at higher densities to maximise efficiency of land and provide a critical mass to support vital local services including public transport is good planning. There may be a change in the ‘character’ of an area, but the purpose of planning is to manage this change in a sustainable manner. It appears that these changes provide a reason for areas to not even attempt to meet housing needs, which is at odds with the Government’s commitment to build 300,000 homes per annum and will result in an exacerbation of the housing crisis.
NPPF should make clear these choices remain the responsibly of local councils through plan making and decision making. The method of calculating oversupply needs to be clearly set out including whether this is permissions or completions and for what period.
Q10. Do you have views on what evidence local planning authorities should be expected to provide when making the case that need could only be met by building at densities significantly out-of-character with the existing area?
Relevant local evidence would include assessments of the special local character that needs protecting (including any designations) and how increased densities would negatively impact upon it. Evidence could be based on the testing of various spatial options based on different housing densities to deliver housing land needs. For the preparation of the Places for Everyone Plan, the GMCA and PfE districts considered various growth and spatial options which considered various densities, including an 'Urban Max' option. Local design codes could provide the basis for guiding densities across a district area.
National policy should recognise the role of the planning system to manage change rather than to prevent it in all cases.
Q11. Do you agree with removing the explicit requirement for plans to be ‘justified’, on the basis of delivering a more proportionate approach to examination?
It is noted that the intention of this change is to ensure that plans are subject to a proportionate assessment when they are examined which is a principle that we agree with. Paragraph 31 of the extant NPPF is clear that evidence should be ‘adequate and proportionate’ and ‘focused tightly on supporting and justifying the policies concerned’. It is considered NPPF already contains wording to ensure plans are subject to a proportionate assessment during their examination.
However, paragraph 31 of the NPPF also explains that policies should be underpinned by relevant and up to date evidence. With the proposed amendment to delete the ‘justified’ test of soundness, it is unclear how it would be concluded that such evidence is relevant/up to date if this is not considered through the examination process under one of the tests of soundness.
By way of example, how would unresolved objections be addressed where these challenge the evidence presented to support specific standards or policy requirements in the local plan?
Even if this test were removed from national policy, it is unlikely that plans would no longer have to address issues of justification (for example, how would an LPA demonstrate the appropriateness of a lower housing target?). Removal of this test is likely to create confusion rather than simplify plan-making.
Q12. Do you agree with our proposal to not apply revised tests of soundness to plans at more advanced stages of preparation? If no, which if any, plans should the revised tests apply to?
Whilst we are of the view that the ‘justified’ test of soundness should be retained, if the proposals go ahead, we consider that the revised tests of soundness should not apply to plans which are already at the pre-submission consultation stage (Regulation 19 consultation) or the submission stage. To apply them to plans at these stages would cause significant delays to the plan making process in those local planning authorities.
Q13. Do you agree that we should make a change to the Framework on the application of the urban uplift?
The change proposed to the NPPF (paragraph 62) repeats existing guidance in the NPPG. The wording proposed does not however fully reflect the description in para 14 of the consultation document. There is no reference in the proposed additional NPPF paragraph to the ability to redistribute the uplift if there are local cross boundary agreements. This could be an important element in deciding the appropriate location for new housing, particularly in conurbations such as Greater Manchester where the core extends beyond one city/town. The paragraph should therefore address this issue, stating that "This uplift should be accommodated within those cities and urban centres themselves unless there are voluntary cross-boundary agreements in place to redistribute it and/or it would conflict with the policies in this Framework and legal obligations".
Q14. What, if any, additional policy or guidance could the department provide which could help support authorities plan for more homes in urban areas where the uplift applies?
It is unclear whether the proposed changes relating to densities (Q9) would apply to the 20 urban areas as it is unlikely that ‘gentle densification’ would deliver the housing needs in the 20 urban areas which have a 35% uplift to their housing need figure.
Clarification is needed as to whether ever increasing densities are deemed ‘acceptable’ in these urban areas, or whether the ‘change in character’ this might bring could be sufficient reason for urban centres not to meet the 35% uplift.
Q15. How, if at all, should neighbouring authorities consider the urban uplift applying, where part of those neighbouring authorities also functions as part of the wider economic, transport or housing market for the core town/city?
There is no need to provide further guidance on this issue which can be addressed through general guidance in respect of making best use of previously developed land together with joint working and voluntary cross-boundary agreements as per our response to Q13.
Q16. Do you agree with the proposed 4-year rolling land supply requirement for emerging plans, where work is needed to revise the plan to take account of revised national policy on addressing constraints and reflecting any past over-supply? If no, what approach should be taken, if any?
Yes agree, this would appear to give additional security from speculative applications in the interim period and from potential delays to plans as a direct result of changes to national policy.
Q17. Do you consider that the additional guidance on constraints should apply to plans continuing to be prepared under the transitional arrangements set out in the existing Framework paragraph 220?
There are no local plans in Greater Manchester that are currently being examined under the policies in the original National Planning Policy Framework (i.e., plans that have been submitted on or before 24 January 2019). Therefore, we have no comments on this question.
Q18. Do you support adding an additional permissions-based test that will ‘switch off’ the application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development where an authority can demonstrate sufficient permissions to meet its housing requirement?
Yes agree. The use of permissions rather than completions more accurately reflects the role of LPAs as permission givers not developers. It has clearly been unfair that LPAs have granted permissions which remain unbuilt yet penalised (through the Housing Delivery Test) to the development industry’s benefit as the latter can then benefit from more speculative developments particularly at appeal. The change would level the playing field.
Further guidance would need to be provided on how the ‘switch-off’ test would work in practice, and this guidance should be subject to consultation.
Q19. Do you consider that the 115% ‘switch-off’ figure (required to turn off the presumption in favour of sustainable development Housing Delivery Test consequence) is appropriate?
For the purposes of the housing delivery test, the decision to not progress or make revisions to a permission is the decision of applicant / housebuilder which is outside of the control of the LPA. The LPA should not be penalised for decisions that it has no control over, hence the switch-off should instead be 100%, with no contingency allowance.
Q20. Do you have views on a robust method for counting deliverable homes permissioned for these purposes?
It is considered useful if method for counting deliverable housing permissions is consistent with the method for counting housing completions in the Housing Flows Reconciliation (HFR) data return (i.e. net in terms of conversion / remodelling / change of use, gross in terms of demolition of other units on the site, applying the various ratios to different types of communal bedspaces). The caveat would be that local authorities should be able to just provide a total figure.
Q21. What are your views on the right approach to applying Housing Delivery Test consequences pending the 2022 results?
In view of the significant changes proposed to the presumption, 5YHLS and HDT test (should it be introduced) it would be perverse to impose the consequences of the 2022 HDT and should be suspended.
Q22. Do you agree that the government should revise national planning policy to attach more weight to Social Rent in planning policies and decisions? If yes, do you have any specific suggestions on the best mechanisms for doing this?
Yes, agree that the NPPF should be revised to attach more weight to Social Rent in planning policies and decisions. Given the acknowledged crisis in cost of living and housing affordability, social rent is important for Greater Manchester as the most affordable tenure option available. It should be made clear in any revision to the NPPF that it is for the LPAs to decide what its priorities are for affordable housing having regard to local evidence, rather than having tenures centrally dictated to it by government.
In this context, the current requirement in the planning practice guidance for a minimum of 25% of all affordable homes secured through developer contributions having to be First Homes (subject to certain transitional arrangements) should be abolished immediately. In addition the stipulation in the framework outlining an expectation that 10% of homes in major developments should be available for affordable home ownership should also be deleted for the same reasons or at least transferred to social rent properties.
Q23. Do you agree that we should amend existing paragraph 62 of the Framework to support the supply of specialist older people’s housing?
Paragraph 62 of NPPF covers a number of specialist housing types. It is unclear the justification for singling out specialist older people’s housing for further clarification.
Q24. Do you have views on the effectiveness of the existing small sites policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (set out in paragraph 69 of the existing Framework)?
Q25. How, if at all, do you think the policy could be strengthened to encourage greater use of small sites, especially those that will deliver high levels of affordable housing?
Q26. Should the definition of “affordable housing for rent” in the Framework glossary be amended to make it easier for organisations that are not Registered Providers – in particular, community-led developers and alms houses – to develop new affordable homes?
We support the principle of making it easier for community-led developers to provide new affordable homes, but community led developments are not necessarily affordable and available to be affordable to those in housing need or protected as affordable in perpetuity. Therefore, it might be misleading to amend the definition of affordable housing for rent to refer to community led developers which may not be Registered Providers. Potentially, there could be a separate sub-heading or heading for community led developments, and/or tighter wording to ensure that any community-led development including within ‘affordable housing rent’ is affordable in perpetuity.
However, and as identified in the consultation document, it will be necessary for legal processes to be put in place to ensure that social housing delivered by non-RPs is of good quality and that residents can have access to swift and fair redress.
Q29. Is there anything else national planning policy could do to support community-led developments?
Q30. Do you agree in principle that an applicant’s past behaviour should be taken into account into decision making? If yes, what past behaviour should be in scope?
Q31. Of the 2 options above, what would be the most effective mechanism? Are there any alternative mechanisms?
Q32. Do you agree that the 3 build out policy measures that we propose to introduce through policy will help incentivise developers to build out more quickly? Do you have any comments on the design of these policy measures?
Q33. Do you agree with making changes to emphasise the role of beauty and placemaking in strategic policies and to further encourage well-designed and beautiful development?
The existing NPPF is sufficiently clear on planning for well-designed places. The introduction of references to beauty could complement the existing references to beauty in the NPPF. Nevertheless, we have reservations on its effectiveness because the term is subjective to interpretation.
Q34. Do you agree to the proposed changes to the title of Chapter 12, existing paragraphs 84a and 124c to include the word ‘beautiful’ when referring to ‘welldesigned places’ to further encourage well-designed and beautiful development?
See answer to Q33.
Q35. Do you agree greater visual clarity on design requirements set out in planning conditions should be encouraged to support effective enforcement action?
Q36. Do you agree that a specific reference to mansard roofs in relation to upward extensions in Chapter 11, paragraph 122e of the existing Framework is helpful in encouraging LPAs to consider these as a means of increasing densification/creation of new homes? If no, how else might we achieve this objective?
Q37. How do you think national policy on small scale nature interventions could be strengthened? For example, in relation to the use of artificial grass by developers in new development?
The key thing that the government should do is implement Biodiversity Net Gain fully and in a timely manner, ensuring that proposals are not watered down due to pressures from the development industry. If Biodiversity Net Gain proposals are implemented at a suitable level, then this in itself will provide a strong disincentive for measures like artificial grass in new developments without the need for further regulation.
In Greater Manchester work is well advanced on understanding the implications for delivering Biodiversity Net Gain from development and the Greater Manchester authorities were one of the initial pilots to develop a Local Nature Recovery Strategy.
The work that the Greater Manchester authorities have already undertaken on Biodiversity Net Gain will be valuable for the preparation of the emerging Local Plans in Greater Manchester, following the PfE. In terms of small-scale interventions, further work is being commissioned to consider how Biodiversity Net Gain can be incorporated into schemes of varying scales to determine what appropriate policy and delivery mechanisms can be applied.
We would support measures to halt the use of artificial grass by developers in new development and measures to install hedgehog highways, although we note that this will not prevent purchasers from installing artificial grass or removing wildlife friendly features after occupation.
Q38. Do you agree that this is the right approach to making sure that the food production value of high value farmland is adequately weighted in the planning process, in addition to current references in the Framework on best and most versatile agricultural land?
Further clarification in the NPPF about the value of high value farmland for food production would seem rational, so long as this does not prevent the achievement of the Government’s objectives in relation to nature recovery and creation of ecosystem services to enable and offset development elsewhere. The recognition in the consultation document that “This [the proposed change] should not prevent the achievement of government’s objectives in relation to nature recovery and creation of ecosystem services to enable and offset development elsewhere” is therefore welcomed.
This proposed change looks reasonable. It reflects the fact that not all land classified as Best and Most Versatile agricultural land is actually used for food production. For example, some areas of high quality agricultural land are used for food grazing. Issues such as access and infrastructure can limit the use of land for food production, whilst in other cases as part of the planning balance there may be benefits which outweigh the loss of agricultural land for particular developments.
Q39. What method and actions could provide a proportionate and effective means of undertaking a carbon impact assessment that would incorporate all measurable carbon demand created from plan-making and planning decisions?
It would be very difficult to undertake a carbon impact assessment that would incorporate all measureable carbon demand created from plan-making as carbon emissions cuts across many thematic planning topics, many technical in nature and other regulations, such as Building Regulations. Bringing this all together into a broad, high level assessment would be a huge task, that might not be consistent with the proposals to remove the ‘justified’ test of soundness to create a proportionate and effective evidence base for local plans.
Nevertheless, reducing carbon emissions is an important strategic objective of the PfE and there are many measures in the plan to help deliver a carbon neutral Greater Manchester by 2038, including an expectation that new development will be net zero carbon from 2028.
Potential alternatives to explore could be to strengthen the carbon aspects of the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Sustainability Appraisal and the monitoring of local plan policies that help to reduce carbon emissions.
Q40. Do you have any views on how planning policy could support climate change adaptation further, including through the use of nature-based solutions which provide multi-functional benefits?
We would welcome a stronger position within the NPPF to support the use of nature-based solutions in the land use planning system. The DEFRA 25 Year Environment Plan set a clear ambition to embed an environmental net gain principle for development, housing and infrastructure and this can only be achieved through a clear commitment in the NPPF and the role of nature within place making. One example could be to strengthen the reference to the use of natural flood management and/or preference for green/soft sustainable drainage systems. The wording in Para 172d currently refers to ‘where possible’ provide multifunctional benefits which is not as strong as it could be.
Current planning policy has been proven to be weak when it comes to implementing SUDS and the Review of Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act is therefore welcomed Natural England have recently published a Green Infrastructure Framework.
Consideration as to how this can be incorporated into planning policy, such as through Green Factors for new development, would support the uptake of nature based solutions in new development.
Q41. Do you agree with the changes proposed to Paragraph 155 of the existing National Planning Policy Framework?
Yes, deploying more onshore wind, as the cheapest current form of renewable electricity generation, is vital to meeting both national and local decarbonisation targets.
We support the changes to Paragraph 155, because of the relatively early deployment of onshore wind, ensuring that existing sites can be repowered once reaching end of life should be self evident. It is vital that we keep making progress in onshore wind deployment and this includes ensuring current sites continue to be utilised and make the most of latest technological development at replacement. We believe that the aim here should be to lock-in the deployment already made and go further with new deployment, whilst working hand-in-hand with the natural environment. The proposed changes are therefore welcome and we would support them being more ambitious It is our understanding that ‘re-powering’ renewable and low carbon energy technologies means replacing old equipment (for instance wind turbines) with more powerful and efficient models that use the latest technology. In order to avoid any misunderstanding / misinterpretation of this, a definition should be added to the revised version of the NPPF.
Q42. Do you agree with the changes proposed to Paragraph 158 of the existing National Planning Policy Framework?
Yes, we support the changes proposed to Paragraph 158. Once an existing renewable site reached the point of replacement or end of life, it is likely that technological advancements will mean more efficient generation can take its place, so comparing from the baseline existing on the site already would encourage deployment by making it easier to obtain the planning permission required. We support the ability to lock-in and enhance deployment where possible and so this proposed change is welcome.
However, it will remain important that the planning considerations for wind turbine development set out in the renewable and low carbon energy section of the planning practice guidance (particularly paragraph 014) continue to be considerations in the planning process.
Q43. Do you agree with the changes proposed to footnote 54 of the existing National Planning Policy Framework? Do you have any views on specific wording for new footnote 62?
The inclusion of new footnote 62 and amendments to existing footnote 54 would loosen the current restrictions on bringing forward new onshore windfarm development. Wind energy development not only contributes to energy security but is also an important means of helping to tackle climate change and contributing to local and national zero carbon goals. Therefore, the changes are welcomed as they have the potential to open up further opportunities for onshore wind generating capacity without the need to identify areas suitable in a development plan. Onshore wind energy developments should come forward at a faster rate than they currently do as a result of introducing more flexibility.
However, it will remain important that the planning considerations for wind turbine development set out in the renewable and low carbon energy section of the planning practice guidance (particularly paragraph 014) continue to be considerations in the planning process. It would also be appropriate to provide further detail in either the NPPF or planning practice guidance on how ‘community support’ as mentioned in the footnotes would be defined.
Q44. Do you agree with our proposed new Paragraph 161 in the National Planning Policy Framework to give significant weight to proposals which allow the adaptation of existing buildings to improve their energy performance?
We are pleased that this issue has been recognised and support the ability to make energy efficiency measure deployment easier. We are happy to see the decision to add significant weight to support the need for energy efficiency improvements through the proposed addition of the new Paragraph 161. Retrofit improvements can make a big difference to carbon emissions, at the same time as reducing energy bills, they are vital in our efforts to reach net zero and should be encouraged wherever possible, whilst striking a balance with the Natural Environment and maintaining the heritage of an area.
Q45. Do you agree with the proposed timeline for finalising local plans, minerals and waste plans and spatial development strategies being prepared under the current system? If no, what alternative timeline would you propose?
Subject to the outcome of the independent examination of the PfE that is currently taking place, it is anticipated that the plan would be adopted by the nine local authorities in 2024, which is before the proposed 31 December 2026 latest date for old-style plans to be adopted.
PfE districts are also preparing more detailed and locally focused Local Plans following the adoption of the PfE. The timescales to complete ‘old-style’ local plans by December 2026 should be extended because the examination process can be lengthy, particularly where modifications to the plan are required and that the timescales for examinations are out of the local authority’s hands.
Also, it would be useful to have a more information from the Government on the scope of the proposed National Development Management Policies to inform the scope of local plans and avoid repetition with national policies. Having this information sooner, rather than later, will speed up the progress and adoption of up-to-date local plans.
It is considered that the suggested 30 month period between starting work on a plan and adopting it (as stated in Chapter 9, paragraph 6 of the consultation document) could be challenging, particularly if the new arrangements ‘put communities at the centre of the plan-making process’, as meaningful community engagement takes time.
Q46. Do you agree with the proposed transitional arrangements for plans under the future system? If no, what alternative arrangements would you propose?
The transitional arrangements in Annex 1 are unclear in relation to how plans at advanced stages will be assessed. The relevance of the reference to paragraph 156 in Annex 1 paragraph 225 is unclear. It is also unclear whether the transitional arrangements are limited to paragraph 35, or whether the effect of the transitional arrangements for paragraph 35 means that soundness will be assessed against the existing NPPF as a whole.
For the avoidance of doubt, the transitional arrangements should make it clear that plans which have reached Reg 19 stage and/or Submission stage should be examined under the planning policy framework within which they were prepared. To not do so would cause delay and confusion and would result in further work needing to be prepared.
Q47. Do you agree with the proposed timeline for preparing neighbourhood plans under the future system? If no, what alternative timeline would you propose?
Q48. Do you agree with the proposed transitional arrangements for supplementary planning documents? If no, what alternative arrangements would you propose?
The requirement to replace all SPDs with Supplementary Plans places a huge resource burden on local authorities, and at this stage we do not have certainty regarding the preparation or examination requirements of Supplementary Plans. The current requirement in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill for them to be subject to an independent examination will clearly place a considerable additional burden on Local Authorities.
The December 2027 deadline for replacing all SPDs with Supplementary Plans (bearing in mind that Local Authorities will also be required to get an up-to-date Local Plan in place) is extremely challenging. If all Local Authorities have to replace all of the supplementary plans within this timescale, the availability of PINS or other independent inspectors may result in delays, and lead to a policy vacuum.
Q49. Do you agree with the suggested scope and principles for guiding National Development Management Policies?
Q50. What other principles, if any, do you believe should inform the scope of National Development Management Policies?
Q51. Do you agree that selective additions should be considered for proposals to complement existing national policies for guiding decisions?
Q52. Are there other issues which apply across all or most of England that you think should be considered as possible options for National Development Management Policies?
Q53. What, if any, planning policies do you think could be included in a new Framework to help achieve the 12 levelling up missions in the Levelling Up White Paper?
The proposals in this consultation that would introduce new flexibilities to meet housing needs (guidance on what would constitute exceptional circumstances to use an alternative approach for assessing housing local housing need, reviewing and altering Green Belt boundaries and building at densities significantly out of character with an existing area) could risk undermining the Government's target to deliver 300,000 homes a year. This could undermine the Levelling Up White Paper Mission No.10 on providing a pathway to home ownership and the reduction in non-decent rented homes. It would also risk progress towards the missions to drive economic growth and productivity.
The most important means of supporting Levelling Up through planning and the development process is by enabling local authorities to deliver sustainable development. A parallel programme of public funding to support places with ambitious but robust plans for growth is needed, in particular to support delivery of brownfield sites. There are many examples in Greater Manchester where public investment has seeded growth that has gone on to attract considerable private investment. Levelling Up relies on shifting market perceptions. This frequently requires the public sector to play a lead role, and local authorities need more resources to do this. The basic economics of supply and demand will inevitably mean that this will continue to exacerbate the homelessness and housing crisis unless this is going to be bolstered by a huge council and social house building programme funded by government
There is an urgent need for net zero carbon homes, potentially reducing supply will only exacerbate this, especially when we don’t have regeneration programmes (HMR, SRB, New Deal for Communities etc…).
Finally, the under-supply of housing will also impact local authority budgets, for example, New Homes Bonus, Council Tax Income, increasing demands on government to support Local Authorities.
It is important to recognise that planning and plans are only one aspect of delivering development and community need. Some of the key challenges that we face in Greater Manchester relate to:
- Treasury’s Green Book focus on land value up-lift when allocating capital & revenue for infrastructure.
- Limitations of CIL and S.106 in being able to meet all our policy requirements often, given viability challenges.
- A lack of land value capture within national legislation.
Q54. How do you think the Framework could better support development that will drive economic growth and productivity in every part of the country, in support of the levelling up agenda?
Chapter 6 of the NPPF: Building a strong, competitive economy, is a short chapter (1.5 pages) compared to other chapters in the Framework such as housing. Therefore, the future review of this chapter could seek to emphasise the need to provide land in the right places for the growth sectors that the UK want to attract and foster, acknowledging the tensions that could exist where such locations might be covered by protected land designations e.g., Green Belt.
Q55. Do you think that the government could go further in national policy, to increase development on brownfield land within city and town centres, with a view to facilitating gentle densification of our urban cores?
The existing NPPF is considered to be sufficiently clear with regards to the emphasis on developing brownfield land (for example in existing NPPF paragraphs 119 and 120c).
Furthermore, the retail sequential test is established planning policy, which directs main town centre uses in the first instance to in-centre locations. Paragraph 125 within Chapter 11 (Making effective use of land) of the existing NPPF also sets out that plans should include the use of minimum density standards (for housing) for city and town centres and other locations that are well served by public transport.
All in all, the aforementioned parts of the existing NPPF combined with any local design policies are thought to be adequate to ensure that brownfield land comes forward for development at an appropriate density for its location.
“Gentle densification” will not be enough to deliver housing needs in urban cores. Greater densification is likely to be required in many urban cores, especially the 20 that have had a 35% uplift in their housing needs figure. Therefore, national policy should recognise that greater densities, beyond “gentle densification” will also be required to meet the Government's target to build 300,000 new homes a year.
Q56. Do you think that the government should bring forward proposals to update the Framework as part of next year’s wider review to place more emphasis on making sure that women, girls and other vulnerable groups feel safe in our public spaces, including for example policies on lighting/street lighting?
There is support for ensuring that women, girls and all vulnerable groups feel safe in public spaces through planning policy. However, it should be recognised that a significant proportion of attacks to women take place in the home and that women, girls and vulnerable groups already face harassment and abuse in very well lit, well designed public spaces. Therefore, any changes to planning policy regarding safe public spaces should not detract from the main issue which is the need to address the behaviours of the perpetrators. This is not a problem that can be solved through planning and street lighting alone.
Q57. Are there any specific approaches or examples of best practice which you think we should consider improving the way that national planning policy is presented and accessed?
Sometimes it can be difficult for people to read a local plan as a whole, taking into account thematic and site-specific allocation policies and acknowledging that local plan policies should not repeat national planning policy. Therefore, any way to bring local plan policies, national policy and guidance together in interactive way would be beneficial.
A simpler approach to paragraph referencing should be adopted for the Planning Practice Guidance.
Q58. We continue to keep the impacts of these proposals under review and would be grateful for your comments on any potential impacts that might arise under the Public Sector Equality Duty as a result of the proposals in this document.
We do not anticipate that the consultation proposals would have any impacts under the Public Sector Equality Duty.