The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) outlines that the Coalition Government’s national planning policy is currently seeking to remove the sequential approach which favours town centre uses over out of town office developments. This may present a challenge for struggling town centres, which have benefitted from national planning focus to support regeneration, and now, if Government proposals progress, concerns have been raised for development at Greenfield sites.
An impact assessment, published by the DCLG alongside the draft NPPF, said that the move would give developers a “wider choice over where they can seek planning permission for new office space”. The Sequential Test would still apply to retail and leisure uses, the draft NPPF makes clear.
Neil Sinden, policy director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, warned: “This could signal a fresh wave of out-of-town business parks eating up green fields. We see no hard evidence to support the proposed changes on this issue.”
At AAH Planning we are watching these planning policy developments with interest. We would argue that it may actually make offices more affordable, as typically out of town office developments command lower rents and in these recessionary times, we would all welcome ways to keep business costs down. Of course, these changes would also provide significant opportunities for land owners, developers and existing office parks to seek expansion. Again, good for the economy, but not necessarily good for town centres or the green belt. This review of policy direction will no doubt generate lots of discussion in the months to come.
So what happens next? A 12-week consultation begins this week and the Government intends to implement the framework this year. It has also said it intends to “consult on simplifying other guidance on national policy as the next step”.
Is this going to encourage commercial growth or create an investment vacuum in towns and cities?