Agenda item

Government Consultation on Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Model Design Code (NMDC)

The report of the Chief Planning Officer informs Members of the Government’s consultation on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework. The NPPF text has been revised in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC) ‘Living with Beauty’ with additional changes to the text of the NPPF following on from the Government’s White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation 2020. The report sets out an initial draft response to the changes proposed.


(Report attached)



The report of the Chief Planning Officer informed Panel Members of the Government’s technical consultation on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which opened on 30th January with the closing deadline of 27th March 2021. The report outlines the initial draft response from the Council, on the proposed changes.


The NPPF text has been revised in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC) ‘Living with Beauty’ with additional changes to the text of the NPPF following on from the Government’s White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation 2020.


The Principal Planner (Policy and Plans) introduced the report, setting out some key headlines. Members were informed that two areas of the Government’s consultation included seeking views on changes to the NPPF, and seeking views on the draft National Model Design Code (NMDC). It was noted that it is not a full review of the NPPF, and does not reflect wider planning reform set out in the ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper; the Council are of the opinion that there is a missed opportunity in reviewing the whole of the NPPF.


Leeds City Council considers that there are 5 key areas that the response to the consultation should focus on. Relating to 1) achieving well designed places, 2) the presumption in favour of sustainable development, 3) climate change, 4) flood risk and 5) the use of Article 4 directions. Most of the proposed changes relate to:

·  The quality and design of new development;

·  Strengthening environmental policies;

·  Clarify policy in response to legal case law and make minor factual changes to remove out of date text; and

·  Updating guidance on the use of Article 4 directions.


The Principle Planner (Local Plans) provided an update on the Draft NMDC, explaining that detailed guidance on the production design codes are provided as well as guides and policies to promote successful design. Officers consider the NMDC as a positive document, and will help support Leeds to achieve good design across all developments; the document reflects similar content in the ‘Neighbourhood for Living’ SPD and area specific planning guidance.


The Council consider areas that the NMDC could be strengthened, particularly in relation to:

·  Locally specific guidance based on ‘area types’. It was noted that for Leeds, the ‘area types’ would include a wide variety of diverse neighbourhoods;

·  Addressing climate change and making reference to methods such as sustainable construction and energy use;

·  Examples in the document not being considered as being appropriate in the Leeds context;

·  Doesn’t factor in all of the challenges Leeds face when trying to achieve good design across all sites, such as viability.


The Panel were informed that the Government have invited expressions of interest from local planning authorities to take part in the testing of the NMDC, and Leeds are preparing material for a bid to this process. The Leeds bid focuses on the area type approach, and how communities are involved in that process. The Panel will be updated on whether Leeds are successful in securing the bid.


Member’s discussions included:

·  Long-term implications with retrofitting to ensure developments are zero carbon;

·  The definition of ‘beauty/beautiful’;

·  Area based implications in relation to Article 4 directions, concerns around the high concentration of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Leeds and permitted development allowances;

·  Clarity on the role of community engagement and how links will be made to neighbourhood planning groups;

·  The likelihood of developers arguing their case against the viability of design codes;

·  Strengthening on the response provided in terms of flood risk management, particularly in relation to what is meant by a resilient paint;

·  Clarity on whether design codes will be applied citywide or a smaller economic unit;

·  The impact of changes to permitted development on local and city centres, and concerns in relation to the protection of retail units and green infrastructure.


Officers responded to Members questions with the following information:

·  Officers were of the view that neighbourhood planning coincided with design coding, and the document set out the importance of having early stage consultation on the outset, to ensure that local people and planning groups engage on what they want to see in their local area;

·  Whilst it was confirmed that the objectives of the bidding process for NMDC testing was unclear, it would allow Leeds to come forward with a working practical methodology for a complex urban geography, and to understand the different typologies;

·  It wasn’t clear what the next steps in the Government’s implementation of the White Paper are and officers expressed concern that the document doesn’t show the bigger picture in terms of the purpose of planning, particularly in relation to tackling climate change, health and wellbeing and sustainable development. It was confirmed that a detailed response will be drafted, subject to being in consultation with the Executive Member, prior to being sent to MCHLG – a suggestion was made that the Executive Member be minded to circulate the response with Panel Members for their input;

·  Clarity was yet to be provided on the balance of overall planning considerations, and where good design sits in relation to that. It was confirmed that the NPPF doesn’t make an update that good design should be more important than other factors, and should be ensured along viability considerations. Although, it does enable the Council to prepare policies locally that have a stronger design focus and more support nationally;

·  Members were informed that it will be at the discretion of the local authority to determine whether guidance for design codes are applied on a local or wider scale. It was identified that there may be a role for neighbourhood planning to provide additional overarching guidance;

·  In response to a suggestion that a workshop be scheduled to discuss concerns prior to the consultation response being finalised, officers suggested  that subject to Leeds being successful with the pilot bid, a workshop be scheduled to help frame what the design code for Leeds will look like. Additionally, wider comments Members may have around developing local methodology, can potentially be put forward to CLG;

·  Officers suggested that an update report be provided to the Panel on viability of town and local centres, with a particular focus on management initiatives post the COVID-19 pandemic.



a)  To note the contents of the report,

b)  To note the intention to receive an update on Council initiatives in relation to town and local centres at a future meeting and;

c)  To note that comments provided during discussion of this item, would be used to form the Council’s response to the consultation.


Supporting documents: