Agenda item

National Planning Policy Framework - Consultation on proposed changes

National Planning Policy Framework – Consultation on proposed changes 




This report provides an explanation and summary of the proposed key changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and seeks to agree responses to a current consultation on these proposed changes.





Members of the Planning Policy & Built Heritage Working Party recommend to Cabinet that the Authority respond to the consultation as outlined in this report.



Cabinet Member(s)

Cllr Andrew Brown


Ward(s) affected



All Members


All Wards

Contact Officer, telephone number and email:

Mark Ashwell, Planning Policy and CDL Manager, 01263 516325





  1. The PPM introduced the Officers report and advised the background to the report and recommendation. He informed Members that the government had gone out to consultation on a series of proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), expected to be followed by a further 2 to 3 rounds of consultation in 2023 including the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, additional consultation on the NPPF, and standard development management policies. These consultations would form a fundamental review of planning, with the expectation that Local Plans would be more streamlined, strategic, quicker to prepare, and subject to regular review roughly every 5 years or so.


The PPM highlighted the proposed changes 1 to 9 (Pages 99 to 103 of the Officers report) and invited Members questions regarding the Officers report, any of the specific changes and proposed responses.


Change 1 – Page 99 - The PPM advised that North Norfolk does not follow the standard methodology used to establish how many houses were required, and noted concerns about the 2014 household projections used in the formula. NNDC was classified in the exceptional circumstances category and used their own methodology, similar to other Local Authorities. He affirmed the UK government did not intend to remove the standard methodology, however proposed for this to be referred to as ‘an advisory starting point’ within the NPPF. It was considered that this would provide Local Authorities greater flexibility as they would not have to demonstrate that circumstances were exceptional, rather they would simply have to argue that there is good reason to depart from the standardised approach. The PPM expressed his disappointment and preference that the standard methodology be removed altogether, allowing Local Authorities the ability to establish their own targets on the basis of locally produced need. The PPM concluded, that the proposed change was a step in the right direction, albeit disappointing that the standardised methodology was to remain.


Change 2 – Page 100 – The PPM advised that although greater flexibility was proposed, it was unclear what might constitute grounds for departing from standard methodology. He noted use of language in the document, in particular references to ‘Island of elderly’ which was vague. The PPM stated unless the guidance was extremely exhaustive and cites every single example, Local Authorities would likely challenge that their particular reasons for departure weren’t listed in the guidance, which would be problematic. He reiterated his earlier comments that the standard formula should be rescinded, with determination made by individual Local Authorities who better understood local factors.


Change 3 – Page 101 – The Working Party were advised this was not applicable to North Norfolk as it pertained to uncharacteristically high density.


Change 4 – Page 101 – The PPM advised this also was not relevant to North Norfolk as there is no Green Belt within the district. He confirmed that ‘Green Belt’ was a specific designation, separate to Countryside and Green Fields, with Green Belts only existing around urban areas. However, noted the proposed changed may be impact North Norfolk and other Local Authorities with growth being directed elsewhere instead of the Green Belt, resulting in a ripple effect of development.


Change 5 – Page 101 – The PPM expressed support for the proposed change. He noted that the current housing target did not account for surplus delivery one year, with a fall in the next, stating there was no benefit in delivering additional homes above the target. The proposed provision would allow for the surplus to be taken off future years.


Change 6 – Page 101 & 102 – The PPM advised that Local Plans needed to be ‘justified’ in order to meet legal tests. To justify Plans, Local Authorities must consider a series of options and prepare a vast array of supporting evidence and background studies. The formal test of ‘soundness’ if softened would diminish the importance of supporting evidence.


Change 7 – Page 102 – Not relevant to North Norfolk.


Change 8 – Page 102 –Proposed changes to ‘Duty to Co-operate’ were considered by the PPM to be significant. Duty to Co-operate was a legal requirement which offered the Local Plan Examiner little by way of discretion of judgement. The replacement ‘alignment policy’ was not yet known, but would likely enable sensible strategic planning across authorities but not having to meet duty to co-operate standard. 


The PPM spoke broadly about the other proposed changes outlined in the consultation document.


With reference to the Councils 5 year Housing Land Supply (HLS) and housing targets referenced in the document, the PPM advised that the government had indicated intention to streamline this process. Local Authorities would still be expected to deliver 5 year HLS but rather than be judged exclusively on the housing delivery test, Councils would be assessed on planning permissions granted. The PPM reflected this was a beneficial change as the granting of planning permissions was within the Local Authorities control, whereas the enacting of those permissions and building of developments was in the control of third parties.


The PPM considered the Council should object to the government’s intention to introduce a standard set of national development management policies, and considered that whilst there were policies shared amongst several Local Authorities including flood risks, AONB, dark skies and more, the proposed change argued that where there was a conflict between local policies and national policies, national policies would take precedence. The PPM argued the proposal would devalue local democracy and undermine Local Plans. He reflected that contention surrounding Local Plans related not to development management policies, rather it was the strategic content, therefore the time-consuming part would remain.


The PPM noted the transitional provisions proposed, which recognised that Local Authorities were developing Local Plans at present and encouraged Councils to continue to develop and submit their Local Plans. Under the proposed transitional arrangements those submitted Plans would be examined under the existing regime. The PPM contended that it would be better for the government to introduce the proposed new tests, including the removal of duty to co-operate, in relation to current Plans, and expedite the process of current Plan preparation.


  1. The Chairman noted the Council challenged the standard methodology calculation relying on the 2014 projections, and asked why the 2014 figures were still being used.


  1. The PPM advised the Council had successfully challenged and won on appeal when arguing that the 2014 figures and projections for North Norfolk were wrong. The certainty offered by the 2014 figures was increasingly outdated, with the 2021 census expected to provide a benchmark of what was happening in the real world as opposed to projections. It was noted that the 2021 census figures would not be available till 2024.


  1. The Chairman asked if Local Authorities would have a buffer for its housing delivery target, and commented on the deliverability of the governments housing targets.


  1. The PPM advised that the government sets a higher national target than the sum total of all Local Plans across the country to build in a plan failure contingency. He argued that government were aware that the national housing target figure would not be achieved, and commented there was little prospect the 300,000 figure would be delivered.


  1. Cllr N Dixon welcomed the proposed change to enable the 5 year HLS calculation to be judged on permissions granted, but contended that this may not go far enough. He affirmed that the Council were limited in the delivery of homes after allocating land in the Local Plan. Whether permissions were granted on those allocations was beyond the Local Authorities reach, and would be subject to planning proposals being submitted in the first instance, and in developers desire to build on the allocated land. He asked if the 5 year HLS assessment could instead be based on allocations made, not the delivery of those allocations. Cllr N Dixon noted that site allocations were subject to discussions with developers and land owners, and were assessed for their viability.


  1. The PPM acknowledged that in preparing the Local Plan, the Council were required to undertake a deliverability test to ensure that the Local Authority were confident the allocated land could be developed upon. This process involved discussions with developers, land owners and others. Under the current and transitional arrangement, if the Council could evidence housing growth in its Local Plan (when considered by the Planning Inspector), it would not be required to show a 5 year HLS outside the plan preparation process for the first 5 years.  At the end of the 5 year period the Plan would be subject to review, the streamlined process would ensure Plans be subject to cyclical ongoing review processes. The PPM advised this would offer protection, as those Local Authorities which had adopted a Plan would not be subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development. In order to refuse planning permission under the presumption, Councils must demonstrate the adverse impacts of the development significantly outweigh the benefits. In practice this results in the approval of otherwise unsatisfactory development.


Those Local Authorities who had passed Regulation 18 and Regulation 19 stages, and were far advanced in their plan making would, under the transitional arrangements, only be required to demonstrate a 4 year HLS rather than the 5.


  1. Cllr N Dixon reiterated his preference that the 5 year HLS assessment be underpinned on site allocations contained in the Local Plan, not permissions granted.


  1. The PPM noted the process of development, from initial thoughts, through application and to completion, and advised, provided the Council could demonstrate the scheme would be deliverable in the 5 year period, that even those fledgling thoughts and conversations could be included within the Authorities 5 year HLS.


After the Local Plan had been examined and approved by the Inspector, the PPM advised the relevant site allocations would be added to the Councils 5 year HLS. The PPM agreed that it was only correct that sites be considered as part of the Councils 5 year HLS if they have been part of the aforementioned process.


The PPM affirmed that Nutrient Neutrality had significantly stymied house building in the district, and noted that the mechanisms available to the Council to promote development were limited. He advised that it appeared that there would be a new process brought in which would allow for the Local Authority to consider the Character of the applicant when considering planning applications. This would enable the Local Authority to consider whether a specific developer was sitting on permissions without developing them out. The PPM expressed some scientism about any mechanism intended to accelerate build out rates based on the behaviour of individual applications and developers. Rather, he contended that build out rates were determined by market conditions.


  1. Cllr V Holliday asked whether proposal 3 could apply to high growth villages, regardless she expressed her support for the proposed condition.


  1. The PPM advised that density, as referenced in the proposal related to areas where there was no other option other than to build up at much high densities. The density considerations had nothing to do with delivering housing targets, and was different from the term densification. This proposal would not apply to North Norfolk which had ample room to grow out rather than up.


  1. In response to questions from the PPM and Chairman about the timeline for Consultation response, the DSO advised that the recommendation could not be altered to enable the PPM delegated permission from the Working Party to respond to the Consultation. The Working Party was not a decision making Committee and was bound by its terms of reference to make recommendations to Cabinet. It could not pass decisions in its own name.


  1. Cllr P Heinrich proposed and Cllr R Kershaw seconded the Officers recommendation.




That Members of the Planning Policy & Built Heritage Working Party recommend to Cabinet that the Authority respond to the consultation as outlined in this report.



Supporting documents: