In 2012, the government introduced the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Ministers claimed this speeded up and streamlined the system. They also stated that if councils failed to meet particular targets – for example, the speed with which planning applications are determined – the government would deem those councils to be failing and would intervene.
At the end of last year, the all-party Communities and Local Government Committee, which I chair, commissioned some research to examine whether different outcomes in relation to these targets are a reflection on the quality and value of the outcomes to citizens and developers. The researchers told us:
“It is clear that the planning performance targets do not tell the whole story; they may mask both good and bad practice and can be misleading about practice and outcomes……..”
So, simply measuring performance, by the number of decisions taken within eight or 13 weeks from the start of the formal process, masks good and bad performance.
They also found that some councils, which the government deemed "exemplary" because of their speed of decision-making, were actually "described as horrendous by those with first-hand experience of working with them", and that some appeared to be trying to "game the system".
It is particularly concerning that good councils, which focus on customer service, enable good development and deliver good value, could be placed in special measures because they miss arbitrary and unsatisfactory targets. The Government’s planning performance targets may actually be driving perverse behaviour.
This research is a starting point for our inquiry into the whole of the NPPF. We welcome evidence about how the National Planning Policy Framework has worked in the last two years. In particular, we will be looking at the impact of the NPPF on three key areas:
- planning for housing;
- town centres; and
- planning for energy infrastructure
If you want to contribute your views or, more importantly, your experience of the NPPF in operation, please do so by Thursday May 8th. Advice on the terms of reference and the best way to submit evidence are available at