Jes' Highway Review of the Draft NPPF

Our industry came alive on Monday after the Government’s draft NPPF consultation was released. Our social media feeds and conversations were dominated by discussions around the revised NPPF and what this means for the green belt, affordable housing and so on, but what does it mean for the transport planning industry and how does this affect development? We asked our Jes Lloyd to review the draft and give us her thoughts on the changes.

‘The overarching theme of ‘the presumption in favour of sustainable development’ remains in this draft, however the promotion of Travel Plans acting as a ‘key tool’ (Para 36) to facilitate sustainable development seems to have been removed from the latest draft. A theme that is apparent through the NPPF instead is on emissions and air quality, and a steer towards electric vehicles which could potentially conflict with the focus of Travel Plans acting as this key tool to help promote sustainable development.

The draft NPPF still suggests that developments should only be prevented or refused on highways grounds if the residual impacts on the road network or road safety would be severe, yet the definition of severe still remains unclear. Paragraph 108 does however provide 3 principles which developments must adhere to if the site is to be considered sustainable, this includes: appropriate opportunities to promote sustainable transport modes through the development, safe and suitable access to the site for all users and mitigation to an acceptable degree (and cost effectively) for any significant impacts from the development on the transport network in terms of capacity, congestion and highway safety. The question will no doubt be raised to what extent is the mitigation ‘to an acceptable degree’? The addition of highways safety under these principles is also new and will no doubt become increasingly important in future applications.  It appears the latest draft has gone some way to clarify what is meant by ‘severe’ by identifying the 3 principles, although potentially leads to more unanswered questions?

The final paragraph of the new transport section states that developments which will generate significant amounts of movement should still be required to provide a Travel Plan and applications should be supported by a Transport Statement or Transport Assessment which was also proposed in the previous NPPF.

Whilst not directly related transport, but important for Transport Planners nonetheless is the stance taken on planning obligations and conditions. The latest draft opposes pre-commencement conditions which can often slow down development starts whilst also trying to focus more on planning conditions than planning obligations. Paul Basham Associates will continue to support our clients to ensure conditions are appropriate, reasonable and timely’.

We will be intrigued to see how the consultation goes as we keep up to date with local and national policy changes.  If you have any queries about this please don’t hesitate to get in contact with Jes who would be glad to assist.