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Simplification of planning policy by government hides license for more congestion

25 July 2011
Responding to the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation draft, sustainable transport charity Campaign for Better Transport has accused the government of effectively removing the ability of local communities stopping damaging out-of-town development. It warns that the NPPF will add to traffic on already congested roads and streets. The National Planning Policy Framework will replace all national planning guidance with a short 52 page document.

Richard Hebditch, Campaigns Director at Campaign for Better Transport, said:
“The NPPF has some warm words about sustainable communities but it effectively means that it will be very hard for local communities to stop damaging out of town development or  sprawling new developments. Communities opposed to damaging developments will have to prove that it would breach the whole document, which is itself written in such a way as to make that a near impossible task. Policies in the NPPF that could be used to stop a damaging development have caveats that make them meaningless, such as ‘where practical and consistent’ or ‘where reasonable to do so’.

“The published draft is practically identical to the draft that was leaked at the beginning of July, except that a new chapter has been added on sustainable communities. But this new section will be worthless as the rest of the document pushes local authorities into accepting short-term growth that will harm our long-term needs to tackle congestion and cut carbon from transport.”

Campaign for Better Transport is particularly concerned that existing local plans will have to prove that they are in conformity with the new NPPF and a Government that is minded to remove any perceived burdens on businesses could decide that most, if not all, existing local plans are not in conformity. Many areas have also not yet formally adopted existing local plans, so this could mean that the bulk of planning applications have to be assessed against the weak NPPF.