Neighbourhood Planning updates and the revised National Planning Policy Framework

The long awaited revised draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been released earlier in March by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). It is an important document – as ALL local, regional and neighbourhood plans have to comply with the policy framework that the NPPF sets out. You can read it here and it is open to consultation until May 10 2018.

The Architects Journal have written a handy overview of ten changes here including commentary on the focus on housing supply, with a major proposed change that will impact local communities across the country. The AJ writes, that “a key change is the proposal for local council’s to be stripped of their power to assess their own housing needs and a centrally determined methodology for deciding on housing need based on a formula taking into consideration local house prices, wages and projected household growth to be put in place.”

The launch of the revised NPPF also provides a timely opportunity to lay out how the planning system works in practise. In a nutshell – everything in our, and any,  neighbourhood plan has to fit with the policies in the NPPF.

  1. Any London based Neighbourhood Plan sits alongside a number of planning frameworks: the borough Local Plan, which sits alongside the regional London Plan, which sits alongside the National Planning Policy Framework. 
  2. As a neighbourhood forum, it is our duty to ensure that the policies that are developed and entered into our plan comply with all the planning frameworks in place. If they do not, then not only are they are not enforceable and will serve zero purpose in supporting our community  – they will not even be given the green-light to be published as a neighbourhood plan and new policies that do comply with the different planning frameworks would need to be created!

It is worth reminding ourselves that planning is a legal framework, used by planning committees comprised of local councillors, who are elected by local residents, (with the exception of the City of London, where both local business representatives and residents vote in local councillors,) to justify decisions on which projects are granted the green light to go ahead.


In London, all planning applications are submitted to the planning committees of the borough in which a project is proposed to be built.  Each application is then reviewed by a planning committee. All committees are advised by planning officers, who, in some cases that are deemed straightforward, can make decisions without going to committee.

The importance of a neighbourhood plan is that it has legal powers.  All decisions on planning applications are made using both the Local and Neighbourhood Plan. Importantly, a Neighbourhood Plan attains the same legal status as the Local Plan once it has been approved at referendum – at this point, it comes into force as part of the statutory development plan. All applications for planning permission must be then determined in accordance with the development plan.

For a more detailed overview of the UK Planning system you can read a guide here.


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