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NPPF 2021 Comparison Update

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was revised on 20 July 2021 to set out the government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied. The new Framework replaces the previous NPPF published in March 2012, revised in July 2018 and updated in February 2019.

The first addition is a reference to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals within the document’s introduction. The UNSDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The IPM welcomes this inclusion, as we recently wrote about how the UNSDGs “provide a bedrock for sustainable place management and development” and have committed to consulting our Membership on how we can best use these global goals to develop practical tools and guidance that will help our members achieve a more radical vision for the places they serve. You can read the full IPM blog on that subject here.

Other additions which may be of interest to IPM members include the expressed need to create “well-designed” and “beautiful” places using design guides and codes that are consistent with the principles set out in the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code. The updated NPPF states that neighbourhood planning groups can play an important role in the production of these design guides and codes but that, regardless of who prepares them, they should be based on “effective community engagement” that “reflect[s] local aspirations for the development of their area”.

Within the section on “tailoring planning controls to local circumstances”, the document is updated to included new information on the use of ‘Article 4’ directions to remove national permitted development rights. Permitted developments rights (PDR) allow for certain changes to be made to a building without the need to apply for planning permission.

The IPM recently presented evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee which stated that the proposed PDR reforms could “undermine the ability to deliver a co-ordinated approach”, due to way in which the proposed reforms would allow for the conversion of ground-floor retail premises to residential and, therefore, remove the ability of a local authority to curate their high street offer.

The evidence that the IPM provided to this MHCLG committee was aided and supported by effective contributions from our BID Foundation Members, including Bath, Canterbury, Team London Bridge, and Love Wimbledon. The input that BID members made to our evidence demonstrates the real importance of a co-ordinated voice when responding to policy matters that affect the future viability of town centres as, following the hearing, the committee recommended that the government should:

  • pause any further extensions of permitted development for change of use to residential, including the new class MA right, which is due to take effect on 1 August;
  • conduct a review of the role of PDRs for change of use to residential within the wider planning system and explain how it aligns with plan-led development and local democratic involvement, two areas of emphasis in the Government’sPlanning for the future White Paper; and
  • consider amending the prior approval process to require PDR housing to have outdoor private or communal amenity space, and to enable councils to require that PDR housing contributes overall to the delivery of the right mix of housing for their area. In particular, the report recommends that local authorities be able to prevent the siting of homes in inappropriate locations, such as business and industrial parks.


The NPPF was subsequently updated to state that use of Article 4 directions should be “limited to situations […] which could include the loss of the essential core of a primary shopping area” but that, in all cases, their application must be “based on robust evidence, and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.”

To provide more evidence in support of this area, the IPM has also started working in partnership with University College London and the Consumer Data Research Centre on a project to forecast the impact that PDR changes would have on business rates and BID levy collection in locations across the country.

The updated Framework also includes regular additional references to “sustainability", including a completely new section on the importance of trees to improve the character and quality of urban environments, as well as mitigate the impact of climate change. The document recommends a number of measures on this basis, including that “new streets are tree-lined, that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere in developments (such as parks and community orchards), that appropriate measures are in place to secure the long-term maintenance of newly-planted trees, and that existing trees are retained wherever possible”.

Under “proposals affecting heritage assets”, the document also adds a new section to address the removal of statues, memorials or monuments. It states that, whether listed or not, local authorities “should have regard to the importance of their retention in situ and, where appropriate, of explaining their historic and social context rather than removal.”



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Formed in 2006, the Institute of Place Management is the international professional body that supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better.

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