Wordle courtesy vsnw.co.uk.
The new UK national planning document, the National Planning Policy Framework, was officially released today. I haven’t had a chance to see how many changes were made from the draft version (which has been kicking around for months); the blogosphere was fairly quiet about it today (although the internet has had plenty to say about the NPPF over the last year or so). The best resource so far is this article from the Telegraph.
The idea behind the document is that it replaces thousands of pages of documents generated over the course of decades with a single go-to policy “in favor of sustainable development.” The NPPF has cheerleaders and detractors. As I read it, the central tenets of the document aren’t fundamentally bad, but (as one might expect, when 50 pages distills 1000s), its capable of being interpreted about a bazillion ways: sustainable is never defined, for example. What constitutes sustainability? I could give you my definition, but somehow I doubt it corresponds to what the conservative politicians had in mind when they drafted it. It is also hazy on things like density, urbanity, provision of affordable housing, and conservation of green belts around towns, among other things. These aren’t niggling details. They are critically important to envisioning the future of England as dictated by the NPPF.
If I were to provide the glossary for the document, I think it might be pretty strong. But since no one’s asked me to yet, I think the definitions will be hashed out over time. It will be sloppy and yield some unfortunate planning results. But the planning system as it has historically existed isn’t streamlined or efficient, and leaves much to professional judgment. Basically I think the former planning system was the lesser of two evils.
Those of you outside the UK are probably unaware, but whether good or bad, its a huge shift in the way the country approached planning and could have real implications for the way England builds in the coming decades.