UDG responds to consultation on Draft Revised National Planning Policy Statement for England

Planning system not delivering sustainable development 

The Urban Design Group has expressed concern over the failure of the planning system to deliver sustainably located development of acceptable quality. The defects are being repeatedly identified through surveys and academic research conducted by organisations such as the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Place Alliance, and Transport for New Homes.  

Guidance and clarity needed on sustainable patterns of development

The response welcomes the proposed requirement in the NPPF that all plans should promote a sustainable pattern of development, but also recommends that government provides additional guidance and definition of sustainable patterns of development to ensure that the policy is translated into practice. The UDG has provided a specification for producing this guidance.

Single shared mechanism needed for the planning and design of the built environment

With Manual for Streets being revised, there is an opportunity to create a shared mechanism for the planning and design of the built environment, enabling planning, urban design, highways, and blue-green infrastructure, utilities and so on, to work seamlessly and efficiently together. When all specialisms are working on the same end-product, it is irrational for each to have its own independent, self-contained and sometimes conflicting design process.  

In addition the response calls for:

1.  A Clear Definition of Sustainable Development
England needs a clear definition, established in law, of what sustainable development is, and how it can be consistently and objectively assessed and measured.

2.  Robust sustainability tests for local plans and site allocations
A clear sustainability test for local plans and site allocations related to this definition, with objective standards for sustainability assessment should be established.

3.  Testing for sustainability should be as rigorous as the testing for deliverabilty
Allocation of land for development should undergo as rigorous a testing for environmental, social and economic sustainability as for deliverability.

4.  Planning policies should fully reflect the sustainable development goals, net Zero Carbon target, and other legislation and policies on health, crime, environment etc
The National Planning Policy Framework needs to ensure all planning policies flow from the need to meet the sustainable development goals, as well as linking to other Government targets and policies such as the net zero carbon target, and the Environment and Agriculture Acts, together with wider statutory duties policies on public health, obesity, active travel, crime and disorder, equalities and so on.

5.  Good design applies at all scales from strategic to local
The Planning system needs to convey an understanding that good design applies at all scales, from a strategic urban design level, at the city region scale, to individual towns, neighbourhoods, and down to fine details, such as the quality of individual buildings, streets, parks and public spaces. All scales matter. The design decisions made over the strategic scales often have implications at more local scales.

6.  Do the tests for soundness of local plans satisfy the Wednesbury Test? Could they be justified at judicial review especially on the basis of duties on Equality, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption, and the 2050 net Zero Carbon target?
There is uncertainty that the tests for soundness of local plans satisfy the Wednesbury Test, in that they fail to take into consideration the role of local plans and the planning system as a whole in discharging the broad range of statutory duties placed by Parliament on local authorities, and specifically the Equality Act Section 1 Public sector duty regarding socio-economic inequalities, and the Section 148 Public sector equality duty - with the requirement to have due regard - rather than a mere tick box approach; and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 Section 19 duty to secure that the development and use of land in the local planning authority's area contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.

Read the UDG's full response

With many thanks to UDG members and other industry professionals who contributed to the working group:

Adriana Bonilla | Rob Cowan | Roger Evans | Helen Flage | Colin Pullan | Barry Sellers | Kenji Shermer | Katja Stille