Vast majority of London planning officers do not see the benefits of neighbourhood forums, suggests survey

On 31 March 2012, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into effect. The 65 page document replaced over 1300 pages in various planning policy statements and planning policy guidance notes. London company Sitematch has recently surveyed London planners to see how they are responding to the new framework.

Access the survey document here

The NPPF was first announced on 20 December 2010 by the then minister for decentralisation and planning, Nick Clegg. His aim was to consolidate all policy statements, circulars and guidance documents into one single, concise document, the NPPF. The NPPF has met with a number of criticisms in the past. Two main points of criticism were the vagueness of its language and the over-emphasis on economic development to the detriment of environmental conservation.

On the whole, the survey suggests that participating council officers are not convinced that the introduction of the NPPF has so far led to any favourable results in their boroughs. This is not to say that the NPPF has made things worse: for a majority of the council officers, it remains business as usual.

The NPPF has not been the only significant change in planning regulations in recent years. The 2011 localism act allows for communities to organise and come together into so-called neighbourhood forums. These forums can exert a certain amount of influence during the process of deciding which development types should be promoted in their community. More and more communities are applying to be appointed as neighbourhood forums in London and it is therefore worth finding out if planning officers welcome these developments in neighbourhood planning.What conclusions can be drawn from this brief survey?

The vague language of the NPPF seems to leave participating officers uncertain of the extent to which the document can help protect the built/ natural environment, as issues are left to the interpretation by the individual planning authorities. Whether or not priority will be given to environmental protection may depend on internal factors at play within a particular authority.

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