NPPF : Friend or foe? AoU debate

Kevin Murray chairing the NPPF debate at the Academy of UrbanismI chaired a timely debate on the merits of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in England. Kindly hosted at the London offices of Grosvenor as part of their support for the Academy of Urbanism, it included thoughtful presentations from David Lock, Charmaine Young and Paul Murrain on the day after the NPPF was launched.

David was broadly supportive of the Government’s amended NPPF, in the sense that it was an improvement that would encourage the good projects, but he was more nervous about the capability of local government to support this. Charmaine was very supportive of the amended draft, intimating it had come a long way from the more criticised version, and stressing the importance of moving on now to deliver much needed homes. Paul was much more critical of an avoidance of place-based thinking, with a prevailing culture of plans merely as an allocation of fields to ‘capture’ houses. He doubted that the latest NPPF would make much difference to positive, sustainable urbanism.

My interpretation of the debate was that the permissive nature of the NPPF may enable the 10-15% ‘better’ urbanism to proceed apace, but it will do little to help address the 85% of placeless development that will be unleashed. Stuff will happen, yes, but most will not be very good. There are clearly capacity and skills issues in local authorities that will make this more problematic, and there also seems to be far too much uncertainty created around interpretations of the materiality of previous plans and proposals from the previous cycles.

Lots of fees for lawyers, no doubt, who seem to be the main beneficiaries of the NPPF chaos… but more uncertainty around the urbanism legacy.

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