Research article

A critical moment for planning policy

The sixth annual Savills planning report comes at a crucial juncture, as the first revisions are made to the National Planning Policy Framework since its inception


In March, the Government published for consultation its draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This announcement is the biggest shake-up of planning policy since the introduction of the NPPF in 2012.

In the six years since the implementation of the original NPPF, housing has become an increasingly important political topic, with the affordability, availability and quality of homes all key topics for debate. Despite consistently slow plan making, the number of new homes granted consent since the introduction of the NPPF has doubled to reach 350,000 in 2017/18.

The increase in permissions is yet to feed through to a similar increase in the level of housebuilding. A key aim of the revisions to the NPPF is to speed up housebuilding where homes are most needed. This is required to meet the Government’s national target of 300,000 new homes per year announced in the Autumn 2017 Budget.

The NPPF revisions show a real consistency of approach from the Government, with most of the new measures set out a year earlier in the Housing White Paper. The revisions aim to ensure that residential consents are delivered where they are most needed. Additionally, there are more attempts to ensure consents are built out, both through the Housing Delivery Test, and the proposal to address viability earlier in the plan-making stage.

So, the draft revisions to the NPPF are steps in the right direction for planning policy. But planning policy alone cannot fix our broken housing market and more clarity on all aspects of the draft changes is needed. Does planning policy align with the wider economic strategy? Is government investment in infrastructure going to unlock sites in the areas with the greatest housing need?

In this document, we assess how far the proposed revisions to the NPPF are likely to result in increased housing delivery and show where policy needs to develop further if it is to really solve the housing crisis.

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