On 22 December 2022, a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published as part of a consultation on reforms to national planning policy. The consultation set out proposed wider changes within the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and included changes to housing need calculations, treatment of the green belt and delivery of renewable energy projects. You can read the CLA response to the consultation here.
The draft NPPF was met with an industry backlash and when the consultation closed, 26,000 responses had been received. This in turn led to an inquiry by the Levelling Up Parliamentary Select Committee in February on planning policy and led to a delay since Spring for the consultation response and proposed NPPF revisions.
One part of the consultation supported by the CLA was to enable consent for the re-powering of wind turbines and the easing of existing national policy which had been blocking onshore wind in England since 2015.
On 5 September 2023, the Department for Leveling up, Housing and Communities published a new version of the NPPF (NPPF 2023) which amended ‘Chapter 14 - meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change’. These amendments will enable communities to bring forward proposals for onshore wind, and enable developments of onshore wind turbines to be identified within local plans. Views of communities on planning applications for onshore wind will need to be considered going forward, limiting the influence of small groups of objectors who currently are able to halt applications. This is the change the CLA supported in the earlier consultation.
The revised NPPF comes as pressure has been mounting from a group of Conservative MPs (led by Sir Alok Sharma, former COP26 President) to ease planning restrictions through an amendment to the Energy Bill to remove the de facto ban on onshore wind. Sir Alok Sharma has since said that the amendments to the NPPF will “move things forward and will help to deliver a more permissive planning system”.
The easing of planning restrictions for onshore wind represents a U-turn on the Prime Minister’s previous commitment to retain the effective ban on new onshore wind farms. The CLA is supportive of the amendments to the NPPF. However, the consultation earlier this year also included other proposals which remain concerning and would negatively impact CLA members.
The UK Government’s full response to the NPPF consultation is expected later this year when we also expect to see further consultations on planning reform. The intermediate outcome is positive with a hint that future planning reform could include further wins for the CLA.