Yesterday the Government’s consultation of the draft National Planning Policy Framework closed. The proposed presumption in favour of sustainable development has catalysed a debate about the amount and quality of development England needs to house and employ its population, and has sparked the Telegraph’s Hands off our Land campaign at one end of the spectrum and Inside Housing’s Get on our Land at the other.

The definition of sustainable development is the Brundtland definition of “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” But this definition does not stand alone; the Government’s intention is that the NPPF as a whole embodies sustainable development and the presumption shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. The NPPF also proposes a plan led system (local authorities need to strategically assess local requirements and proactively plan their land accordingly) and the presumption sits in the context of the NPPF itself – 50+ pages of policy designed to ensure development meets the needs of the economy, people and places.

The RIBA in principle supports the Brundtland definition, providing it is in the context of Local Plans and the full suite of policies in NPPF. Other responses have disagreed, with the RTPI for example suggesting that the 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy is a more useful basis for the definition.

In its response the RIBA calls for the delivery of high-quality, inclusive design for all developments should be a core planning principle and recommends that further guidance is needed to support the NPPF on design codes, local standards, community consultation and energy mapping. The response makes clear that a good design process is a mechanism for reconciling the social, economic and environmental tenets of creating sustainable communities.

The RIBA has encouraged amendments to the climate change section of the policy to ensure local authorities prioritise urban densities that are appropriate to sustainable development and will help create sustainable communities. Another amendment is designed to strengthen the regard to improving energy efficiency as well as opportunities for low carbon technology and renewable energy provision; the RIBA has encouraged local authorities to map energy usage and plan for opportunities for decentralised, renewable or low carbon energy supply systems and also for energy efficiency improvements.

Whilst agreeing with the sequential approach to town centre development, the RIBA noted that concerns have been raised about the weakening of the ‘brownfield first’ rule. The RIBA has therefore advised that local authorities should be encouraged to develop a strategy, in line with their Local Plans, for the development of previously used land – which may include incentives reflecting the expense to developers or lack of additional infrastructure needed when building on such sites. The aim is that local plans and government incentives take the benefits of urban regeneration into account; where suitable sustainable brownfield sites exist it will be in the interests of the local community that they are developed appropriately.

The RIBA’s full NPPF consultation response can be downloaded here.

Rebecca Roberts-Hughes, RIBA Policy

About Charlie Peel
Charlie set up and runs the RIBA's Sustainability Hub: a resouce on best practice in sustainable architecture. The site currently hosts several design strategies, case studies and short films.

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1 Comment
  1. Janelle

    February 21, 2013

    Many thanks for taking free time to publish “RIBA Blogs
    Sustainable Development and the National Planning Policy Framework”.
    Thanks once again ,Janell

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