Developers and housebuilders raise concerns about local authority interpretation of NPPF

Out-Law News | 18 Jul 2014 | 4:38 pm | 1 min. read

Developers and housebuilders are concerned that the interpretation of the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) by local authorities is leading to confusion in the planning application process and delays in the delivery of housing, the government's inquiry into the operation of the NPPF has heard.

The Communities and Local Government Committee held the fifth oral evidence session for its inquiry into the operation of the NPPF on 9 July, focusing on the impact of the NPPF on housing. In a written statement submitted in advance of the evidence session, developer Gladman Development said that, while "the NPPF is generally having a positive effect on boosting the supply of homes ... it is how its guidance is being interpreted and applied by decision makers that is continuing to constrain development".

Gladman accused local authorities of "unjustifiably refusing planning applications and pursuing arbitrarily low levels of development in their areas" and recommended that the Planning Inspectorate provide guidance to chief planning officers outlining the responsibilities of councils in facilitating housing supply.

"Gladman do not consider that further wholesale changes are required to the NPPF", said the statement, but "local authorities need to be made more aware of their obligations when taking decisions and developing local plans".

Like Gladman, building trade association the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said in its written statement that an overhaul of planning policy was unnecessary, but that "the major issue with the operation of the NPPF is its inconsistent interpretation by local authorities".

"FMB house builders report that there can be significant differences depending on which council they are dealing with", said the FMB statement. "This is frustrating and puzzling for building firms that are attempting to negotiate planning applications in multiple localities."

The comments of both Gladman and the FMB were echoed by non-profit housing association representative body the National Housing Federation (NHF). The NHF wrote that, while "significant changes to the current policy" should be avoided, guidance ought to be provided to help local authorities to bring forward sound local plans and to avoid the uncertainty caused by out of date policies.

"Government could provide clear methodology for identifying a five year supply of housing sites and the Federation would support measures that streamlined the process of updating local plans," said the NHF, adding that "there also remains uncertainty over the effectiveness of the duty to co-operate".

The next oral evidence session for the inquiry takes place on 21 July and explores the impact of the NPPF on design and amenity and on transport and infrastructure.