The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Government’s guidance to Local Planning Authorities. Issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MiHoCoLoGo), the framework guides those authorities on how to prepare local development plans and decide planning applications.

The Ministry has been revising the framework. It is important for the Greater Cambridge area as it sets out the rules for our own future growth and development.

 In May, along with many other concerned organisations, we responded to the proposed changes. Some of the revisions are positive, such as a commitment to the Green Belt. The positives are, however, greatly outweighed by the fudge. 

The revised framework from Mr Brokenshire’s ministry:

  • Lacks any clear long-term vision for how the system can improve the quality of people’s lives at a time of rapid social change and increasing inequality.
  • Reduces the role of planning to little more than regulated development through a centralised set of prescriptions, denying local flexibility in a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Imposes an unrealistic burden for plan-making on Local Authorities already struggling from the impact of funding cuts.
  • Introduces a state of constant uncertainty by specifying that Local Plans must be reviewed every five years.
  • Fails to address the problems of affordable housing supply.
  • Ignores the importance of the setting of heritage assets and the harm that can be done through inappropriate development within their setting.
  • Ignores the role of natural assets such as Country Parks and County Wildlife Sites.

What does all this mean for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire?

What should be an aid to responsible development becomes a sharks’ charter. The framework favours commercial interests, encouraging accelerated growth, putting increased pressure in local councils to pass it.

These changes beef up of the development lobby, whilst making it tougher for expert and experienced community organisations like CambridgePPF.

There is little doubt that pressures for greater release of the Green Belt, especially along transport corridors and adjacent to transport hubs, will increase.

The pressure to do things faster, however, is all one way: six years after starting the process of preparing the Local Plan for Cambridge, we are still awaiting the Planning Inspector’s decision. 

(Robin Pellew is a member of CambridgePPF Planning Committee and former chairman of the charity)

Published August 2018