Designated Areas and the NPPF

15th May, 2018 by Natasha in General

The draft revised NPPF has recently completed its consultation and MHCLG aims to publish the updated NPPF this summer, possibly before Parliament recess on 24th July 2018.

The principle thrust of the NPPF has always been the promotion of sustainable development - the balance of economic, environment and social needs. Confirming MHCLG’s desire for greater protection in designated areas, the latest draft revision confirms that development within National Parks and AONBs should be limited.   As outlined by the CLA, and echoed by Acorus in their recent consultation response, there are two issues of note about the revised wording of the presumption in favour of sustainable development:

(i)    the plan-making section now provides for a defined list of policies which provide a specific reason for restricting development as set out in footnote 7 (which is a defined list including National Parks, AONBs, Green Belt etc.);
(ii)    the decision-making section has been changed to provide greater clarity and refers to refusing rather than restricting development in relation to the defined list in footnote 7.

Refusing rather than restricting development is a significant policy shift and one that could have significant ramifications for farmers and landowners in such areas.  Already missing out on some permitted development rights, this strengthened anti-development, unfair competition stance could impact on new development which, in turn, farm profitability and performance.  This is particularly disheartening at a time of Brexit uncertainty.

National Parks and AONBs cover 35% of the County of Devon, for example. The role of National Parks is currently under review as proposed in the 25 Year Environment Plan.  At the same time, there is a proposal for the 'upgrading' of the existing AONBs in Dorset and East Devon to National Park status with a potential decision to be made later in the year at the earliest, subject to a Natural England review.  Do we really need to take such a hard line with these designated areas; after all they remain a living working environment which requires the agricultural industry to manage its intrinsic quality accordingly.  Furthermore, do we need to see more National Parks; it depends on who you ask.  

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