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Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023

National Development Management Policies (NDMPs)

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 introduces a new category of planning policies: national development management policies (NDMPs) to be drawn up by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The Secretary of State must consult the public on proposed NDMPs.

NDMPs will carry the same weight as local plans in decision-making on planning applications. In case of a conflict between the two, NDMPs will override local plans.

The government said NDMPs will make local plans faster to produce and easier to navigate because nationally important issues will be protected by NDMPs and local plans will be able to focus on locally important issues. It also said NDMPs will provide safeguards where local plans are out-of-date.

Views on NDMPs

The Home Builders Federation said NDMPS could standardise policies that were already contained in most local plans. It said that, currently, a lack of consistency made local plans difficult to navigate for developers.

The Local Government Association (LGA) and Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said they supported NDMPs ‘in principle’, but expressed concern that, in case of a conflict between the two, NDMPs could override local plans. The LGA argued that this undermined “the idea of a local, plan-led system”.

Further changes to planning law in the 2023 Act

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 also makes other changes to planning law which affect the plan-making process and decision-making on planning applications. They include:

  • Abolishing the ‘duty to cooperate’, which requires LPAs to cooperate with each other in preparing their local plans. The government said that it will introduce a new ‘flexible alignment policy’ instead.
  • Replacing supplementary planning documents (SPDs) used to expand on policies in local plans) with ‘supplementary plans’. Their scope would be limited to setting either site-specific policies or area-wide design codes.
  • Introducing a statutory requirement for LPAs to prepare design codes, in which they set out design requirements for developments in their area.

Proposed reforms in addition to the 2023 Act

In addition to making changes to planning law through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, the government has proposed changes to planning regulations to reform the plan-making process. It said it intends to update these regulations by autumn 2024.

Proposed reforms to the plan-making process

Currently, there is no set timetable that LPAs need to follow when preparing their local plans. LPAs must review (but not necessarily update) their local plans every five years. The government said that local plans take too long to produce and estimated that only a third of LPAs in England have adopted a local plan in the last five years.

The government has proposed changing regulations to require LPAs to produce local plans within 30 months and update them every five years. It proposed that, in these 30 months, local plans would undergo:

  • two rounds of consultations to allow the local community and certain public bodies to participate in the plan-making process.
  • three ‘gateway’ checks (of four to six weeks each) where technical specialists or planning inspectors would help LPAs resolve issues.

The government also proposed that the examination of the local plan by the Planning Inspectorate should take place during the 30-month timeframe. It said the examination should last “no more than six months”.

Views on the proposed reforms

In general, organisations such as the LGA and the Planning Officers Society, expressed support for proposals to speed up the local plan-making process. In particular, they welcomed the proposed ‘gateway’ checks.

They questioned whether it would be feasible for LPAs to produce local plans in 30 months, however, highlighting the resourcing constraints faced by LPAs.  The LGA also expressed concern that LPAs might not be able to “meaningfully consult the public” within the proposed timeframe.

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