Biblio (4) UK National Planning Policy Framework

It is quite possible that a large share of the readers of this blog will never practice urban planning in the UK. But the document that is commented is interesting in comparative terms and by its enunciation of public policies (a literary corpus in itself…).

The European Union is composed of countries with very different legal traditions, usually grouped in two families: southern countries have usually Latin origin systems, highly codified, while the Northern Countries are rather based on the Germanic law tradition. In the case of the British system there is a tradition of Acts passed by the Parliament and of documents exposing the policies of the current government. The electoral platforms, considered as mere political marketing tools in the Latin countries, can gain in Britain a certain legal status without going through the Parliament (although usually subject to public consultation). So are formulated the Planning Policy Statements and other documents compulsory in a variable degree.

The National Planning Policy Framework formulated by the current Liberal- Conservative coalition government has been published in march 2012.

Sustainable development is configured as the main aim of the system, to be attained through these lines of action:

1-        Building a strong, competitive economy

2-        Ensuring the vitality of town centres

3-        Supporting a prosperous rural economy

4-        Promoting sustainable transport

5-        Supporting high quality communications infrastructure

6-        Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes

7-        Requiring good design

8-        Promoting healthy communities

9-        Protecting Green Belt land

10-     Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change

11-     Conserving and enhancing the natural environment

12-     Conserving and enhancing the historic environment

13-     Facilitating the sustainable use of minerals

The document defines the principles for plan- making:

–           Local planning authorities should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area;

–           Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless:

  • Any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole
  • Specific policies in theFramework indicate development should be restricted

Decision-taking principles are also established:

–           Approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay

–           Where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out‑of‑date, granting permission unless:

  • Any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole
  • Specific policies in the Framework indicate development should be restricted.

These policies must be read on the context of the precedent acts of the coalition government, which previously suppressed the regional planning system (but for London) and has given greater power to local governments. Some parts of the document remind the basic principles of the Spanish Land Law of 1998

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