NPPG Seminar- Paul Watson spoken by Meredith Evans, MADE seminar
NATIONAL PLANNING PRACTICE
MADE Expert Seminar
Friday 21 March 2014
Vice President Emeritus, Planning Officers Society
Independent planning & urban design consultant
NATIONAL PLANNING PRACTICE GUIDANCE
• outcomes: babies & bathwater
The National Planning Policy Framework must be taken into account in the preparation
of Local and neighbourhood Plans, and is a material consideration in
LAW, POLICY and GUIDANCE
NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK
Core planning principles
•not simply be about scrutiny, but instead be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which
people live their lives…
•always seek to secure high quality design and a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and
•take account of the different roles and character of different areas, promoting the vitality of our main urban areas, protecting
the Green Belts around them, recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside and supporting thriving rural
communities within it;
•support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate… and encourage the reuse of existing resources, including
conversion of existing buildings…
•contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment…
• encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is
not of high environmental value;
• promote mixed use developments, and encourage multiple benefits from the use of land in urban and rural areas, recognising
that some open land can perform many functions (such as for wildlife, recreation, flood risk mitigation, carbon storage, or food
• conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to
the quality of life of this and future generations;
• actively manage patterns of growth to make the fullest possible use of public transport, walking and cycling, and focus
significant development in locations which are or can be made sustainable; and
• take account of and support local strategies to improve health, social and cultural wellbeing for all…
•be genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings, with succinct local and neighbourhood plans
setting out a positive vision for the future of the area. Plans should be kept up-to-date, and be based on joint working and co-
operation to address larger than local issues…
NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK
Requiring good design
56. The Government attaches great importance to the design of the built environment. Good design is
a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning, and should contribute
positively to making places better for people.
57. It is important to plan positively for the achievement of high quality and inclusive design for all
development, including individual buildings, public and private spaces and wider area development
58. Local and neighbourhood plans should develop robust and comprehensive policies that set out the
quality of development that will be expected for the area. Such policies should be based on stated
objectives for the future of the area and an understanding and evaluation of its defining
characteristics. Planning policies and decisions should aim to ensure that developments:
* will function well and add to the overall quality of the area, not just for the short term but over the
lifetime of the development;
* establish a strong sense of place, using streetscapes and buildings to create attractive and
comfortable places to live, work and visit;
* optimise the potential of the site to accommodate development, create and sustain an appropriate
mix of uses (including incorporation of green and other public space as part of developments) and
support local facilities and transport networks;
* respond to local character and history, and reflect the identity of local surroundings and
materials, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation;
* create safe and accessible environments where crime and disorder, and the fear of crime, do not
undermine quality of life or community cohesion; and
* are visually attractive as a result of good architecture and appropriate landscaping.
59. Local planning authorities should consider using design codes where they could help
deliver high quality outcomes. However, design policies should avoid unnecessary
prescription or detail and should concentrate on guiding the overall
scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout, materials and access of new
development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally.
60. Planning policies and decisions should not attempt to impose architectural styles or
particular tastes and they should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative through
unsubstantiated requirements to conform to certain development forms or styles. It
is, however, proper to seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness.
61. Although visual appearance and the architecture of individual buildings are very
important factors, securing high quality and inclusive design goes beyond aesthetic
considerations. Therefore, planning policies and decisions should address the connections
between people and places and the integration of new development into the natural, built
and historic environment.
62. Local planning authorities should have local design review arrangements in place to
provide assessment and support to ensure high standards of design.
They should also when appropriate refer major projects for a national design review. In
general, early engagement on design produces the greatest benefits. In assessing
applications, local planning authorities should have regard to the recommendations from
the design review panel.
63. In determining applications, great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative
designs which help raise the standard of design more generally in the area.
64. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the
opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it
65. Local planning authorities should not refuse planning permission for buildings or
infrastructure which promote high levels of sustainability because of concerns about
incompatibility with an existing townscape, if those concerns have been mitigated by good design
(unless the concern relates to a designated heritage asset and the impact would cause material
harm to the asset or its setting which is not outweighed by the proposal’s economic, social and
66. Applicants will be expected to work closely with those directly affected by their proposals to
evolve designs that take account of the views of the community. Proposals that can demonstrate
this in developing the design of the new development should be looked on more favourably.
67. Poorly placed advertisements can have a negative impact on the appearance of the built and
natural environment. Control over outdoor advertisements should be efficient, effective and
simple in concept and operation. Only those advertisements which will clearly have an
appreciable impact on a building or on their surroundings should be subject to the local planning
authority’s detailed assessment. Advertisements should be subject to control only in the interests
of amenity and public safety, taking account of cumulative impacts…
NATIONAL PLANNING PRACTICE GUIDANCE
Provides advice on the key points to take into account on design.
Updated: 06 03 2014
• The importance of good design
• What planning objectives can good design help achieve?
• What is a well designed place?
• How should buildings and the spaces between them be considered?
• Which planning processes and tools can we use to help achieve good
• Are there design issues that relate to particular types of development?
Elsewhere in NPPG…
What is the role of a Local Plan?
National planning policy places Local Plans at the heart of the planning system, so it is essential that
they are in place and kept up to date. Local Plans set out a vision and a framework for the future
development of the area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the
economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for safeguarding the
environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design.
(from Design section)
In development plans:
The promotion of good design should be sought at all stages in the planning process. At the
development plan stage this will be carried out through:
careful plan and policy formulation
Good plan and policy formulation
A Local or Neighbourhood plan is essential to achieving high quality places. A key part of any plan is
understanding and appreciating the context of an area, so that proposals can then be developed to
(from Natural Environment)
Local plans should include strategic policies for the conservation and enhancement of the natural
environment, including landscape. This includes designated landscapes but also the wider
Where appropriate, landscape character assessments should be prepared to complement Natural
England’s National Character Area profiles. Landscape Character Assessment is a tool to help
understand the character and local distinctiveness of the landscape and identify the features that
give it a sense of place. It can help to inform, plan and manage change...
How should the needs for all types of housing be addressed?
Once an overall housing figure has been identified, plan makers will need to break this down by
tenure, household type (singles, couples and families) and household size...
The private rented sector
People wishing to build their own homes
The Government wants to enable more people to build their own home and wants to make this
form of housing a mainstream housing option…
Housing for older people
… Plan makers will need to consider the size, location and quality of dwellings needed in the
future for older people in order to allow them to move…. The future need for older persons
housing broken down by tenure and type (e.g sheltered, enhanced sheltered, extra
care, registered care) should be assessed… The assessment should set out the level of need for
residential institutions (Use Class C2). But identifying the need for particular types of general
housing, such as bungalows, is equally important.
Households with specific needs
What are Government’s national standards for a building’s
sustainability and for zero carbon buildings?
Paragraph: 009 Reference ID: 6-009-20140306
The National Planning Policy Framework expects local planning authorities when
setting any local requirement for a building’s sustainability to do so in a way consistent
with the Government’s zero carbon buildings policy and adopt nationally described
standards. Local requirements should form part of a Local Plan following engagement
with appropriate partners, and will need to be based on robust and credible evidence
and pay careful attention to viability. In this respect, planning authorities will need to
take account of Government decisions on the Housing Standards Review. This
guidance will be updated as appropriate in the light of those decisions.
HOUSING STANDARDS REVIEW
Rationalisation of an “untenable forest” of standards and regulation with
clear distinction between planning and building control.
Local Plans to establish policy on provision of
• wheelchair homes
• adaptable (age friendly) homes
• water stress areas
and perhaps internal space standards
Code for Sustainable Homes to be wound down.
Government statement on scope & expectations of planning processes to be
made later this year when new standards are published.
How should viability be considered for brownfield sites in plan-making?
The National Planning Policy Framework sets out a core planning principle that
planning policies should encourage the effective use of land by re-using land that has
been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high
Local Plan policies should reflect the desirability of re-using brownfield land, and the
fact that brownfield land is often more expensive to develop…..
Particular consideration should also be given to Local Plan policies on planning
obligations, design, density and infrastructure investment, as well as in setting the
Community Infrastructure Levy, to promote the viability of brownfield sites across
the local area.
How should viability be considered for brownfield sites in decision-taking?
For residential schemes, viability will vary with housing type. For example, in respect of
developments of multiple units held in single ownership as private rented sector housing
intended for long term rental, viability considerations in decision-taking should take account of
the economics of such schemes, which will differ from build for sale. This may require a
different approach to planning obligations or an adjustment of policy requirements.
Before submitting an application
The importance of considering design and environmental issues at the pre-
Paragraph: 014 Reference ID: 20-014-20140306
How can design review relate to the pre-application stage?
The National Planning Policy Framework recognises the benefits of design review in appropriate
cases (see paragraph 62). The local planning authority should consider offering design review
when appropriate, as part of their pre-application service. While a design review can take place at
any point during the pre-application or planning application process, it is particularly beneficial if
undertaken once the site’s constraints and opportunities have been established and before a
proposal has been developed in any great detail. Being able to inform and influence the design of
a proposed development at this early stage is more efficient than trying to implement suggested
revisions at a later stage – particularly if this relates to a major proposal and/or one that will
require an Environmental Impact Assessment.
If undertaken at the pre-application stage, a prospective applicant is encouraged to articulate the
findings and outcomes of the design review process when making a formal planning application.
This explanation could be included in a Design and Access Statement in instances where one is
required. Design and Access Statements can help local planning authorities and other interested
parties understand the evolution and rationale behind the proposed design.
Design and access statement
Paragraph: 029 Reference ID: 14-029-20140306
What is a Design and Access Statement?
A Design and Access Statement is a concise report accompanying certain applications for planning permission
and applications for listed building consent. They provide a framework for applicants to explain how the
proposed development is a suitable response to the site and its setting, and demonstrate that it can be
adequately accessed by prospective users. Design and Access Statements can aid decision-making by enabling
local planning authorities and third parties to better understand the analysis that has underpinned the design
of a development proposal.
What should be included in a Design and Access Statement accompanying an application for
A Design and Access Statement must:
(a) explain the design principles and concepts that have been applied to the proposed development; and
(b) demonstrate the steps taken to appraise the context of the proposed development, and how the design of
the development takes that context into account.
A development’s context refers to the particular characteristics of the application site and its wider setting.
These will be specific to the circumstances of an individual application and a Design and Access Statement
should be tailored accordingly.
Design and Access Statements must also explain the applicant’s approach to access and how relevant Local
Plan policies have been taken into account. They must detail any consultation undertaken in relation to access
issues, and how the outcome of this consultation has informed the proposed development. Applicants must
also explain how any specific issues which might affect access to the proposed development have been
Determining a planning application
… the decision must be taken in accordance with the development plan unless there are material
considerations that indicate otherwise…
Where a proposal accords with an up-to-date development plan it should be approved without delay.
Where the development plan is absent, silent or the relevant policies are out of date…determined in
accordance with the presumption in favour of sustainable development unless otherwise specified.
What is a material planning consideration?
A material planning consideration is one which is relevant to making the planning decision in question (e.g.
whether to grant or refuse an application for planning permission).
The scope of what can constitute a material consideration is very wide and so the courts often do not
indicate what cannot be a material consideration.
What weight can be given to a material consideration?
The law makes a clear distinction between the question of whether something is a material consideration
and the weight which it is to be given. Whether a particular consideration is material will depend on the
circumstances of the case and is ultimately a decision for the courts. Provided it has regard to all material
considerations, it is for the decision maker to decide what weight is to be give to the material considerations
in each case, and (subject to the test of reasonableness) the courts will not get involved in the question of
What role does the National Planning Policy Framework have in decision taking?
The National Planning Policy Framework represents up-to-date Government planning policy and must be
taken into account where it is relevant to a planning application or appeal. If decision takers choose not to
follow the National Planning Policy Framework, clear and convincing reasons for doing so are needed.
I FOUGHT THE LAW…
Planning (Listed Building & Conservation Areas) Act 1990
Good design is indivisible from good planning
NPPG indivisible in itself: and from other planning policy & the law