Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The National Planning Policy Framework

I work in a planning department at an English university so I'm duty bound to blog today on the new National Planning Policy Framework for England. It might sound a bit boring but it's likely to have significant implications for the built environment for years to come and it represents the biggest change to the planning system in England in a generation (or more).

What are the main changes? Well, much has been made of the reduction of planning policy guidance from more than 1,000 pages to around 50. That's one of the most obvious changes and there is certainly a good deal of simplification associated with the NPPF. It has 13 main sections (image below), from 'Building a strong, competitive economy' to 'Facilitating the sustainable use of minerals'. It also covers 'Protecting Green Belt land', which is something I've written about recently on this blog in relation to data.

I was interested to see that the Glossary (excellent as it is in many ways) does not include a definition of 'sustainable development' (the NPPF's key guiding principle). Instead, it says on p. 2 that:

"The purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. The policies in paragraphs 18 to 219, taken as a whole, constitute the Government's view of what sustainable development in England means in practice for the planning system."

Paragraphs 18 to 219. That's quite a lot, but I didn't really expect it to be defined, given the inherent difficulties associated with defining it. To be fair, the Government could not really be expected to define this but it does seem strange that their view of the core principle of the NPPF cannot be articulated in fewer than 200 paragraphs.

Other interesting snippets I noticed so far...
  • Section 3 on 'Supporting a prosperous rural economy' is only 157 words long (much shorter than, for example, Section 7 on 'Requiring good design' - which gets 840 words)
  • The word 'regeneration' appears 3 times in the NPPF
  • Among the documents the NPPF replaces is the 1990 PPG on 'Development on Unstable Land' - the NPPF mentions the word 'unstable' once
  • The 'Plan-making' section from p. 37 says that 'Local plans are key to delivering sustainable development'
  • Local planning authorities have to prepare a Strategic Housing Market Assessment and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment
  • Parishes and 'neighbourhood forums' can use neighbourhood planning to 'grant planning permission' through Neighbourhood Development Orders (p. 44)
  • Related to the point above, the NPPF states that 'Where a Neighbourhood Development Order has been made, a planning application is not required for development that is within the terms of the order' (p. 46)
  • But, NDOs and Community Right to Build Orders 'require the support of the local community through a referendum' (p. 47). 
  • Annex 2 (p. 50 to 57) is the Glossary and v. useful
  • Annex 3 (p. 58 to 59) details the documents replaced by this new NPPF
The ministerial statement on the NPPF from Greg Clark is on his website and all other NPPF materials can be found on the CLG website. The NPPF pdf doesn't take long to read! It will be 'interesting' to see how all this plays out in practice over the next few years. Perhaps it will not be as good or as bad as people think...

A final point of reminder here - the NPPF applies to England and not the whole of the UK. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Olympic Park Legacy Corporation

The London Datastore recently published on their website the boundary file for the Mayoral Development Corporation in East London. There is quite a bit of background information on the GLA web pages, at this link, but of particular interest is the precise boundary of the Corporation. If you are a GIS user you can download the file and then map it, or, you can look at the map and letter signed by the Mayor of London himself. Alternatively, you can look at my map below and explore the area in Google maps...

By my calculations, this area is 1.88 square miles in size (1,202 acres / 486 hectares) and has a perimeter of 6.47 miles. So, it's quite a big area and bigger than the City of London. It includes parts of the London Boroughs of Waltham Forest, Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets and the area has been described (in October 2011) as 'London's single most important regeneration project for the next 25 years'

The name of the corporation is to be the London Legacy Development Corporation, as outlined in this letter. This is also an example of the Localism Act in action.

I found it quite interesting exploring this area, looking at what is included and (more interestingly) what is not. I hope you find it useful.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Free House Price Data

In recent times it has been a little difficult to keep up with the increasing number and variety of datasets being released by central government in the UK. There are already around new 5,400 datasets out there but until this month the Land Registry's 'price paid' data remained closed. Unfortunately, what we'll be getting is not the entire back catalogue of price paid data, but only new data on a monthly basis. This is still a welcome development, but the release of new data only is a major drawback, as Owen Boswarva notes in this blog post.

I've used this data before and it's extremely useful and interesting (and it also allows you to find out how much your neighbours sold their house for, should you be so inclined!). Of course, you can do this already via websites like Zoopla but you can't get the entire datasets from these providers, which is only fair because they pay a lot of money for it (more than £50k). Perhaps the Land Registry will eventually release the entire dataset, going back to 1995 for England and Wales, but until then this remains a tantalising but ultimately frustrating development.

N.B. This data will, of course, be 'free' in the same way that all other datasets paid for by the taxpayer are 'free'!