CLG committee launches inquiry into National Planning Policy Framework

Out-Law News | 04 Apr 2014 | 2:32 pm | 2 min. read

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee has launched an inquiry into the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) following a report's finding of "poor practice" and ineffectiveness among some local planning authorities.

The inquiry will scrutinise the operation of the NPPF during its first two years, including its impact on planning for housing and town centres.

It follows the publication of a report by the Centre for Housing and Planning Research (86-page / 980KB PDF) which found that some local planning authorities are ineffective and displaying poor practice despite meeting the government’s planning performance targets.

The report, which was commissioned by the committee in December to find out why the effectiveness of the planning system varies so much between otherwise similar local authorities, said that some local planning authorities would refuse planning applications and request that developers resubmit the same application solely to meet the target time for a decision.

It said that delays were also caused by other issues including councillors rejecting officer recommendations on planning applications at the last minute, a lack of resources and skills in planning departments and environmental matters.

However, the report also said that the planning process can be effective when there is a "positive culture within local authorities and a pro-development attitude from chief executives, planning officers and elected members".

“The research suggests that government planning performance targets may be driving perverse behaviour," said CLG Committee chair Clive Betts in a statement. "This is especially worrying as the research also finds that a focus on good practice in local planning authorities is required if the NPPF is to be fully effective."

“It is extremely concerning that efficient authorities, which focus on customer service and enabling good development, could be placed in special measures because they miss arbitrary and unsatisfactory targets. On the other hand, poor authorities that game the system are being applauded for meeting those same targets."

“The evidence from the research suggests that government proposals to increase the threshold for designating authorities as underperforming may only make matters worse. I am today sending a copy of our research to Planning Minister Nick Boles,” Betts said.

The British Property Federation (BPF) welcomed the inquiry and recommended that the committee should look at the pre-application process and timing issues in particular.

“We are glad to see that the committee is undertaking a full analysis of the NPPF, and that it is seeking to understand fully where problems are arising," said BPF chief executive Liz Peace in a statement. "All too often policy makers’ knee-jerk reaction to failing policy is to make big changes, so this considered and detailed approach is to be applauded."

“The NPPF has contributed a lot of good to the planning system over the past few years, so it is important to ensure that we do not hinder development and undermine the positive work that it has so far brought about,” Peace added.

The inquiry is accepting written submissions of evidence until 8 May.