Legislate for Local Plans so as to stop unsustainable development say MPs

Legislation to force councils to put in place local plans, an end to conversion of shops and business premises into homes without planning permission and a review by authorities of their green belts are being called for by MPs.

The demands come in a report from the Communities and Local Government Committee following its investigation into the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework which has been in place for two and a half years.

The committee said the NPPF has bought “welcome” simplification to the planning system but more time is needed before a full assessement can be made of its impact.

However, it said, there were a number of “emerging concerns”. These were:

that the NPPF is not preventing unsustainable development in some places;

that inappropriate housing is being imposed upon some communities as a result of speculative planning applications;

and that town centres are being given insufficient protection against the threat of out of town development.

The committee called for a number of changes to strengthen the NPPF:

1. Give the same weight to environmental and social impacts as economic impacts, with planning permission only given to development if accompanied by the infrastructure necessary to support it.

2. A statutory requirement for councils to get local plans adopted within three years of legislation being enacted to give communities increased protection against the threat of undesirable development.

3. The complex issue of land supply has to be addressed. Provisions in the NPPF relating to the viability of housing land are leading to inappropriate development and these loopholes must be closed, the committee said in the report. There also needs to be clearer guidance about how housing need should be assessed. In addition, local authorities should be encouraged to review their green belts as part of the local planning process.

4. Changes should be made to ensure the NPPF gives greater protection to town centres. “The internet has changed the way we shop; town centre planning policy must therefore evolve too. We call for an end to permitted development that allows shops and buildings used for financial and professional services to become homes without planning permission, a policy which is undermining the local planning process,” the committee said.


If you would like to contact Jackie Whitelaw about this, or any other story, please email