Will NPPF open a Pandora’s box of unsustainable development?
Yes, says Liz Peace, it’s time to stop arguing and get on with it; while Fiona Howie thinks the definition need to be made absolutely clear
I started off thinking that we probably did need a more detailed definition of sustainable development than is set out at the beginning of the draft National Planning Policy Framework. But then I re-read the document more closely and the penny dropped. The NPPF does exactly what its title says and, when taken as a whole, provides a comprehensive framework for achieving sustainable development against which local planning authorities should be drawing up their plans and, where they have failed to do, against which applications should be judged.
In its 52 pages it covers just about everything that needs to be taken into account to create environments that actually work and in which communities can thrive — from design to transport links, from land conservation to biodiversity and from pollution risk to economic viability. And it wraps all that in the widely accepted Brundtland definition about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, which it then further defines as integrating economic, social and environmental considerations.
It is difficult to see what more could be included. Nor is any more detailed definition going to stop disputes, appeals and judicial reviews. More words simply provide more to argue over. So let’s stop this theological debate and get down to what really matters: drawing up sound plans that provide for a sensible balanced outcome in our small island and allow us to provide jobs, homes and communities in a way that doesn’t cost the earth.
One of the problems with the draft National Planning Policy Framework is that the definition of sustainable development is too high level and the policies do not articulate what the term should mean in practice for local decision makers.
If you ask a developer they might argue that it’s about speeding things up and getting things built. If you talk to environmental groups we’ll tell you it’s worryingly vague and weighted in favour of economic growth.
The presumption says proposals should only be rejected if their adverse impacts “would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the NPPF as a whole”. Yet the document when taken as a whole contains so many contradictions that it is rendered almost meaningless. Any proposed development can and will be argued to be sustainable. The resulting disagreements will lead to legal appeals and considerable delays.
Including a clear definition of sustainable development would provide clarity. The government already has workable principles for sustainable development set out in the 2005 report Securing the Future and these should be restated in the NPPF.
By making it crystal clear what sustainable development means, and where the burden of proof lies when it comes to proving a proposal for development is sustainable, the government would go a long way to reassuring its critics and speeding up the planning system.
What do you think?
21 December 2012
17 April 2012
27 March 2012
25 January 2012
25 October 2011
17 October 2011
30 September 2011