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Environmental Audit Committee publishes correspondence on National Planning Policy Framework

12 November 2011

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee have written to the Prime Minister to express concerns about the 'unsatisfactory' wording of the Government’s new national planning policy framework (NPPF) – and to call for a clearer definition of sustainable development.


In its current form, the planning framework
"presents different messages to different audiences about what the presumption in favour of sustainable development actually means in practice."
The Government’s vision must be articulated more clearly, the MPs point out,
"because it will be used as a material consideration in planning decisions and might have to be tested in the courts."

Chair of the Committee, Joan Walley MP, said:

"As it currently stands the new planning policy framework appears contradictory and confusing.

It pays lip service to sustainable development without providing a clear definition, potentially leaving future planning decisions open to legal challenges."

The NPPF must include an up-to-date definition that makes it clear that a 'sustainable development' should not breach environmental limits (on water use or waste disposal, for instance), according to the committee.

Joan Walley MP added:

"There are environmental limits to how much development any one area can sustain and the Government should acknowledge this in the final draft of the NPPF.

If the new planning framework protects our greenbelt and countryside, as the Government claims, then there should be no problem in defining sustainable development more clearly to avoid misinterpretation."

MPs also highlight a number of other concerns raised in evidence submitted to their inquiry. The NPPF: 

  • replaces the target for 60 % of development to be on brownfield sites with an ambiguous new requirement for development to be on sites with least environmental value regardless of previous use.
  • weakens the protection of the green belt, according to legal advice obtained by the CPRE 
  • weakens the town centre first policy that was supposed to create viable town centres, according to the Town and Country Planning Association
  • could lead to urban sprawl and more car journeys according to the National Trust and the Campaign for Better Transport

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