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Thoughts from WSP on the Draft Revision of the NPPF

We are pleased to provide WSPs thoughts on the Draft Revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This blog highlights the issues which are pertinent from WSPs perspective, and reflect our objective to be a Future Ready business.

 

Infrastructure is the foundation for sustainable communities

‘Fixing the housing crisis’ is a key theme of the draft revised NPPF, which calls for higher housing densities and brownfield development. All of which can put existing infrastructure and facilities under pressure:

  • The Greater London Authority forecasts 1.5 million extra homes will generate a need for 600 schools and colleges and a 50% increase in public transport capacity by 2050.
  • The Growth Infrastructure Framework undertaken by Kent County Council, Medway Unitary Authority and district councils indicates that a £6.74 billion investment in infrastructure is required.

The NPPF is alive to the issue of capturing and reinvesting rising land values to fund infrastructure and facilities. Effective use of planning obligations, Community Infrastructure Levy or perhaps the Development Rights Auction Model (DRAM) will be required to address infrastructure needs.

Pushing boundaries creates neighbour conflict

The NPPF emphasises that ‘the agent of change’ is responsible for mitigating the impacts on their schemes of potential nuisance arising from existing development.  This will be welcome news for transport, power and other infrastructure providers where housing is proposed close to operational assets. 

Promoting healthy and sustainable communities

WSP’s Future Ready Programme highlights:

  • the number of older people in the UK will grow by 50% between 2013 and 2030.
  • loneliness is expected to increase for both young and old people as society becomes more connected through digital platforms, with less personal contact.

The NPPF advocates policies to ‘promote social interaction’, ‘encourage safety and accessibility’ and ‘enable and support healthy lifestyles’. Government will need to work closely with the construction industry to develop practical strategies to deliver on these policies. Examples of where WSP is enabling clients to meet these challenges include:

  • Designing buildings and environments that enable interaction
  • Creating spaces for active travel and ‘slower’ ways of life
  • Designing 100% step free and accessible environments
  • Using digital technology to connect people and engage communities
  • Considering how automated driving, connected vehicles, transport systems and networks could connect rural communities cost effectively, which are topics discussed in WSPs New Mobility Now whitepaper (2018)

Protecting and enhancing the environment

More housing, but not to the detriment of the environment, is a key message in the NPPF, which seeks to strengthen existing networks of habitats and green infrastructure. Development resulting in the ‘loss or deterioration’ of irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland ‘should be refused’.  It highlights the importance of robust environmental impact assessment and innovation in enhancing natural capital, topics addressed in WSP’s Biodiversity and the City Paper (2017), which advises on practical measures to deliver ‘net gains for biodiversity’.

WSP will be submitting an official response to the Government’s consultation on the NPPF, and we look forward to continuing working closely with Homes England, the Infrastructure & Projects Authority, the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government, private developers and local authorities up and down the country to deliver on the Future Ready housing and infrastructure this country needs.

We have nearly 60 Planning and Consents Professionals across the UK and with the arrival of Anne Dugdale from Network Rail to join our Guildford team and Will Bridges to join our Birmingham team we have a Planning and Consents presence in all core offices. For further information on our planning capabilities contact Sarah Venn (sarah.venn@wsp.com) or Marcus Wood (marcus.wood@wsp.com ).

This blog was written by Anne Dugdale, Technical Director