Sustainable Development - NPPF

The main thrust of the NPPF is to secure sustainable development. ‘Sustainable’ is defined as ensuring that better lives for ourselves does not mean worse lives for future generations. ‘Development’ is defined as ‘growth’. The planning system is seen to perform three particular roles:  An economic role, a social role, and an environmental role. The Government does not want issues relating to these various roles to be assessed in isolation as it sees them as mutually dependent – taking local circumstances into account. That said, there is a strong focus or priority on securing economic benefits and removing planning obstacles to growth wherever possible. The NPPF is therefore one instrument in the country’s current battle to reduce national debt and unemployment.

Five bullet point aims are put forward as examples of pursuing sustainable development, with my highlighting:-

  • making it easier for jobs to be created in cities, towns and villages;
  • moving from a net loss of biodiversity to achieving net gains for nature;
  • replacing poor design with better design;
  • improving the conditions in which people live, work, travel and take leisure; and widening the choice of high quality homes; and
  • widening the choice of high quality homes.

The above highlighting represents one of very few references in the NPPF with waterway connotations.

The NPPF introduces a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ which it eloquently states: “…should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.”

The accent is strongly on positivity and efficiency. Thus, in plan-making, local authorities should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area, whilst for decision-taking, this means approving development proposals that accord with the Development Plan without delay. Here, the NPPF indicates that where the Development Plan is absent, silent, or where the relevant policies are out-of-date, permission should be granted unless:

  • any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole; or
  • specific policies in the NPPF indicate development should be restricted.

The position is set out forcefully in paragraph 15 of the NPPF:

“Policies in Local Plans should follow the approach of the presumption in favour of sustainable development so that it is clear that development which is sustainable can be approved without delay. All plans should be based upon and reflect the presumption in favour of sustainable development, with clear policies that will guide how the presumption should be applied locally. “

It should therefore be borne in mind that the sustainability of waterway-related projects will become a prime consideration and that if such projects are endorsed by the Development Plan – they should proceed through the Planning Application process more smoothly in future.