Rural development after the National Planning Policy Framework

4th April 2012

The new National Planning Policy Framework was published in March. It replaced 1000 pages of planning guidance with just 50 pages. Now that the initial flurry of excitement has ebbed away, what is the implication of the NPPF for farmers and development in rural areas?

Maria Ferguson, Head of Planning and Development at George F White LLP comments:

“The new NPPF is more supportive of rural economic development. This has been balanced by requiring the planning system to not only conserve the natural and historic environment but to enhance it.

“The new policy does not provide the free-for-all that had been predicted, but there is a very sensible shift in favour of economic growth in rural areas.

“Importantly, the conflict between development in rural areas and ‘sustainable development’ is finally acknowledged. For example, the NPPF states that development should be located near to public transport but recognises that transport solutions in rural and urban areas will be different. This a definite move away from the previous policy which sought to resist development in areas poorly served by public transport.

“The NPPF is not a developer’s charter but landowners with edge of settlement land or who have a business proposal should not be afraid to investigate the opportunities.”

Joe Ridgeon, Planning Consultant with George F White LLP and Chair of the Royal Institute of Town Planners North East considers that the government’s aim for brevity has created problems of its own.

“Farmers will have become used to relying on technical advice in the now superseded PPS7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas. Annex A of PPS7 dealt with agricultural workers’ dwellings and Annex E explained the practical operation of agricultural permitted development rights. This specific advice for farmers has been lost which could lead to doubt and confusion.

“Farmers should seek their own professional advice and not simply rely on the Local Planning Officers interpretation of the NPPF.”

“The NPPF and the Localism Act 2011 have also introduced neighbourhood planning and increased the opportunity for local residents to become involved in promoting development.

“Farmers and landowners should seek local support for their proposals and be involved in the new Neighbourhood Planning process.”

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