CLG Select Committee Inquiry

Government response to the CLG Select Committee Inquiry into the Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework

For the full paper see here

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, has today criticised the complacency of the Government’s response to the Committee’s report, Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework
see his comments here

NPPF fails to protect against unsustainable development, reports CLG committee

The report is out. The CLG committee said “while the NPPF had “brought a welcome simplification and consolidation of planning policy” on its introduction in 2012 and would require “several years to ‘bed in’ fully”, there were significant concerns about the framework’s operation.” The committee found that it would be “ill-advised at such an early stage to consider tearing up the document and starting again”, but suggested several changes to the NPPF and to the way it was applied.

  • It called for the environmental and social aspects of development proposals to be given the same weight as economic aspects; permission to be granted for development only if the necessary supporting infrastructure was included; and increased emphasis on protection of the natural environment in the planning process.
  • They recommend that the Government amend the NPPF to make clear that all sites with planning permission should be counted towards the five year supply of housing land. Taking this approach would stop speculative developers challenging the validity of the five year supply on the grounds of viability or because sites with permission would take longer than five years to build out.
  • They expressed concern about the widespread unease surrounding the results of SHMAs. Communities need to have confidence that the figures on which their local plans are based are accurate. They propose that Government should work with local government and the house building industry to revise its guidance on strategic housing market assessments and produce an agreed methodology. Inspectors should then be required to test SHMAs against this methodology.
  • They agreed with the government that brownfield land should be used for housing development, but it was “not convinced the chancellor’s local development orders policy will do enough to stimulate activity”. It, therefore, recommended that a remediation fund be established to make brownfield sites suitable for development.
  • They were critical of the government’s approach to the protection of town centres and call for an end to permitted development rights which allow buildings in other uses to be redeveloped into homes without planning permission. The committee’s chair, Clive Betts MP, said in a statement that permitted development “is too random and is hollowing out the commercial heart of our town centres”.
  • The inquiry found that developers were taking advantage of an absence of local plans and councils’ inability to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land to “seek planning permission in areas that local communities do not consider suitable for development”. They recommended that the government set a deadline for councils to adopt local plans and called for “clearer guidance about how housing need should be assessed”. It also called for councils to be encouraged to review their green belt boundaries and for the closure of a loophole allowing developers to challenge the inclusion of sites in local plans on viability grounds.

The Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework followed research findings, published by the Committee, that some local planning authorities may be forced into perverse behaviour to meeting the NPPF policies and government targets. Submissions were requested by 8 May and many of our affliates and their members submitted comments.

Our submission to the Commons Select Committee has now been published and can be seen on the Government Website (see NPP0068). There are over 200 submissions.

The inquiry is now taking oral evidence and these are links to the sessions:

  • 10 September at 5.25pm – See the TV archive for the local authorities’ views about the operation of the NPPF
    Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader, Vale of White Horse District Council (submission 87), Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, London Borough of Islington (submission 227), Cllr Hazel Simmons, Leader, Luton Borough Council (submission 268)
  • 8 September at 4.21pm – See the TV archive for the impact of the NPPF on sustainable development, including the balance between economic and environmental factors.
    Neil Sinden, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Campaign to Protect Rural England (submission 127), Nicola Walker, Director of Business Environment, Confederation of British Industry (submission 166)
  • 21 July at 4.15pm – See the TV archive for the impact of the NPPF on design and amenity and on transport and infrastructure.
    i. Freddie Gick, Chair, Civic Voice (submission 196),Ruth Reed, Chair, Planning Expert Advisory Group, RIBA (submission 229),David Waterhouse, Head of Strategy, Design Council (submission 208)
    ii.Ian Achurch, Board Secretary, Planning, Regeneration and Housing Board, Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) (submission 192),Phil Crabtree, Chief Planning Officer, Leeds City Council (submission 149 and submission 257),Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport (submission 276)
  • 14 July at 4.15pm – See the TV archive exploring planning for town centres and planning for energy infrastructure.
    i. James Lowman, Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores, Ian Anderson, Chairman of the Planning Committee, British Council of Shopping Centres, and Stephen Wright, Principal Planning Lawyer, John Lewis Partnership
    ii. Jane Smith, Planning Adviser, Energy UK, David Cox, Head of Development in England, RES, and Gemma Grimes, Director of Onshore Renewables, RenewableUK
  • 9 July at 4.15pm – See the TV archive
    i. David Gladman, Partner, Gladman Developments, Chris Carr, Chair, Federation of Master Builders, and Rachel Fisher, Head of Policy, National Housing Federation
    ii. Stephen Williams MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government
  • 7 July, in Cheltenham at 4pm – no record available
    i. Councillor Gerald Dee, Gloucester City Council, Councillor Steve Jordan, Leader, Cheltenham Borough Council, Councillor Robert Vines, Leader, Tewkesbury Borough Council
    ii. Ian Bickerton, Cheltenham Alliance (submission 111), Lisa Belfield, CPRE Gloucestershire (submission 95), Kim Bedford, Chief Officer, Gloucestershire Association of Parish and Town Councils (submission 167)
  • 23 June at 4.14pm – See the TV archive
    Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Manager, Woodland Trust, and Simon Marsh MBE, Head of Planning Policy, RSPB
  • 16 June at 4.15pm – See the TV archive
    i. Kate Barker CBE, Sir Terry Farrell CBE, and Dr Hugh Ellis, Head of Policy, Town and Country Planning Association
    ii. Dame Helen Ghosh DCB, Director-General, National Trust, Liz Peace CBE, Chief Executive, British Property Federation, and Andrew Whitaker, Planning Director, Home Builders Federation
  • 9 June at 4.15pm – See the TV archive
    i. Richard Blyth, Royal Town Planning Institute, David Henry, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and Councillor Tony Newman, Local Government Association
    ii. Councillor Gillian Brown, District Councils’ Network, Mike Kiely, President, Planning Officers Society, and Councillor Ken Browse, Chairman, National Association of Local Councils


The inquiry follows research findings, published by the Committee, that some local planning authorities may be meeting the Government’s planning performance targets despite being ineffective and displaying poor practice.

The research was conducted by the Centre for Housing and Planning Research at Cambridge University. It was commissioned by the Committee in December 2013 in order to identify pinch points in the planning system affecting housing and to find out why the effectiveness of the planning system varies so much between otherwise similar local authorities. It focussed on analysing the published data and interviews with planners and with large and small housebuilders.

The main findings included:

      1. Large house builders generally think the NPPF has been a positive change. They are, however, opposed to further changes in policy, calling instead for a focus on good practice.
      2. An adopted local plan and a five year land supply is essential for effective planning. The lack of a local plan makes a local planning authority vulnerable to appeals. In some authorities there is an expectation that applications will go to appeal because elected members do not want to make planning decisions or local nimbyism to new development is strong.
      3. There is a whole host of factors that can contribute to delays. This includes consultation with stakeholders, the attitude of some councillors, and a lack of resources and skills. Environmental matters in particular can be a considerable source of delay.
      4. The planning process can be effective when there is a positive culture within local authorities and a pro-development attitude from chief executives, planning officers and elected members.
      5. Planning performance targets do not tell the whole story and can be misleading. Measuring performance by the number of decisions taken within eight or 13 weeks from the start of the formal process masks good and bad performance. The actual time taken to reach a planning consent is not necessarily reflected in the target statistics as in some authorities a lot of time is spent before the formal process begins.
      6. Some local planning authorities engage in poor practice in order to meet planning targets. Some LPAs refuse planning applications and request that developers resubmit the same application solely to meet the target time for a decision.

The inquiry will scrutinise the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework in its first two years. It will look at the impact of the NPPF on three key areas:

      1. planning for housing;
      2. town centres; and
      3. planning for energy infrastructure (excluding energy infrastructure covered by National Policy Statements).

Full terms of reference can be found on the inquiry page. Evidence should be submitted by Thursday 8 May via the inquiry’s evidence portal.

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