Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any scientific information contained within this essay should not be treated as fact, this content is to be used for educational purposes only and may contain factual inaccuracies or be out of date.

The Town And Country Planning Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5455 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

This paper is based on secondary research in to the justifications provided by the coalition government to support the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This research involved an analysis of the impact that the NPPF could have on major areas of debate such as: sustainable development, economic and social costs of the current system, business activity, and housing, benefits of Brownfield development, approval rates and non-planning consents.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

The old planning system was extremely complex and cumbersome, “the system has become overloaded with central policy and guidance, with vast amounts of paperwork making it too cumbersome and unclear for councils, developers and local people to use effectively. The proposed new National Planning Policy Framework will consolidate over 1,000 pages of planning policy statements spread across some 40 documents into a single document of 50-60 pages – around 5 per cent of the current volume of policy. To support the new Framework, there will also be a fundamental review of all the supporting documentation (which comprise a further 6,000 pages across a further 160 documents)”.

The literature review looks at secondary sources and focuses on several topics that I felt would affect most people, namely: Sustainable development, is or was planning a barrier to growth, business activity, Impact of planning on housing and the economy, benefits and costs of Brownfield development and approval rates.

The research findings demonstrated that the old system was in need of reform and that the National Planning Policy Framework theoretically will help the economy to grow out of recession by removing obstacles that ultimately cost money – both for developers and local councils. The research also shows that the old planning system was a barrier to growth and resulted in unnecessary costs due to delays and uncertainty.



Planning systems set rules and guidelines that influence the level, location and pattern of activity. The ultimate goal is planning to promote a balance of environmental, social and economic welfare that meets the needs of current and future generations. Doing so inevitably involves trade-offs, so any planning system has both benefits and costs. An important issue for policymakers and the public is whether the current system imposes costs which reforms could avoid.

“The new Government has made supporting sustainable growth and enterprise, balanced across all regions and industries, one of its top priorities. This means creating the right conditions for private enterprise and business investment. A well-functioning planning and wider consents regime is an essential component of the overall attractiveness of the business environment in the UK and the Government proposes to reform the planning system, creating a presumption in favour of sustainable development and providing more opportunities for local communities to determine the shape of the places in which they live.

Reform of the planning system and of specific elements within it has been underway for some time, with the aim both of making it more efficient and effective and of ensuring that it is not acting as a barrier to investment and sustainable development…” Penfold Review of Non-Planning Consents 2010.

The ‘old’ System:

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 established a comprehensive and universal system of land-use control. The system served the key function of balancing public and private interests and was based upon a fundamental principle which still applies today, notably that private interests would need to be sacrificed for the public good as far as land-use issues were concerned. The old system that existed was a ‘plan-led’ system where English local authorities determined land use plans in consultation with stakeholders with the resulting plans becoming the basis for determining planning applications. Development required permission, and development applications were considered with reference to the plan unless ‘material considerations’ (determined by law) indicate otherwise.

The old framework of local plans and binding national targets evolved over more than sixty years, and was subjected to considerable scrutiny and legislative change over the last two decades (The history of the English planning system in this paragraph was provided by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)). National government dictated the overall structure and direction of the system by enacting legislation that outlined just exactly what needed consent and how local policy shall be produced as well as producing national policy guidance to set out more detail on acceptable forms of development. Thus, the national government enjoyed a detailed level of intervention to setting the system up which ultimately allowed the government to influence its outcomes.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1968 introduced a significant reform to the system of plan preparation, with the introduction of structure plans and local plans. These documents set out both strategic and longer-term planning objectives, such as major housing allocations or green belt identification and short term allocations for development on individual sites. This system was further consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and in the Planning and Compensation Act 1991. The only other significant statutory reforms introduced between 1971 and 2000 dealt with the delivery of the planning function in the reform of the local government restructure the evolution of the old system can be seen in table 1.

Unnecessary detail has resulted in a system which often contradicts itself and where important national policy is obscured by duplication. This has acted as a brake on growth, hindering rather than helping local communities to shape development in their neighbourhoods. This impact on the processing of planning applications causing confusion and delay within the system, and in some cases may discourage submission of planning applications (as a result of the direct costs of complexity that must be borne by developers and the indirect cost i.e. uncertainty associated with planning delay). Contradictions in policy often occur between policy documents and guidance. For example, Planning Policy Statement 5 (Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment) asks local councils to not validate planning applications where the impact of the proposed development on any heritage asset cannot adequately be understood from the information supporting the application. However, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guidance on validation advises that inadequate supporting information is not grounds for invalidating applications (See Planning Policy Statement 5 paragraph HE6.3 and ‘Guidance on information requirements and validation’, paragraph 34). Duplication results in the same policy being unnecessarily repeated in a number of separate documents. One example of this comes from four different national policy documents (Planning Policy Statement 1: Planning for Sustainable Development, Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing, Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth and Planning Policy Guidance Note 13: Transport) which all contain similar policies which ask local councils to identify land which is accessible and well connected to a means of transport including walking, cycling, public transport and by car.

This mass of guidance forms part of a system of top-down targets, which has grown up in recent years. Enforcement of these ‘imposed’ rules or targets can be costly and/or ineffective. For example, the system of housing targets had to be policed by the Planning Inspectorate at a cost of approximately £1m per year. The Planning Inspectorate had the power to impose housing numbers on local councils, who can face lengthy and costly appeals if their plans were judged to be inconsistent with national policy.

The complexity and prescriptive nature of national policy has also led to local people becoming disengaged from the system. According to Ipsos MORI, only 15 per cent of people consider themselves to be involved in decision-making at a local level. Of those 15 per cent, the majority (9 per cent) consider themselves unable to influence decisions (Ipsos MORI (2010). Do the public really want to join the government of Britain?). Other research has shown that national targets decrease the attention decision-makers give to community groups (Murdoch, J. and Abram, S.). Studies also show that they were often presented with limited options, giving the impression that decisions have already been taken, or were consulted on ‘abstract’ strategies (such as Regional Spatial Strategies) rather than plans for their local area (Baker, M., Hincks, S. and Sherriff, G.)

Table 1: The English planning system since 1991: main reports, inquiries and legislation

Report or Act


Planning and Compensation Act 1991

Embedded the plan led system by making the plan the primary consideration in development control

‘Driving Productivity Growth in the UK’, McKinsey (1988) report

Argued that the planning system was an important constraint on UK productivity

Housing White Paper (1995)

Introduced a 50 percent target for the proportion of new homes built on Brownfield land

Planning Policy Guidance 6 (1996)

Introduced the ‘town centre first’ policy

Urban White paper (2000)

Focussed on urban renaissance and provided stronger foundations for Brownfield first approach to housing

Planning Green Paper (2001)

Argued that the planning system was too complex, slow and disempowering for participants; proposed simplifying the hierarchy of plans, shortening local plans and closer public engagement in plan making

House of Commons ODPM Select Committee report on planning competiveness and productivity (2003)

Concluded that planning was not a significant determinant of productivity and that outcome could be improved through further resourcing and better implementation of the current rules

Barker Review of Housing Supply (2004)

Recommendations include transferring benefits of development from landowners to affected communities and using market signals as a trigger for the release of additional land allocated for housing

Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004

Introduced statutory Regional Spatial Strategies and a sustainable development purpose to planning

Barker review of Land Use Planning (2006)

Numerous wide-ranging recommendations to improve the responsiveness and efficiency of the planning system and the efficiency of the planning system and the efficiency of land use

Planning Act 2008

Created the Infrastructure Planning Commission

Localism Act 2011

Abolished the Infrastructure Planning Commission and Regional Spatial Strategies; introduced Neighbourhood Plans and a new duty for local authorities to cooperate

The government is seeking to reform England’s planning rules which currently involve:

A hierarchy of planning policies – national planning policy statements, until recently regional strategies and local development frameworks.

Development control as the main mechanism for regulating local development.

Section 106 (S106) as the main means of local value capture, complemented in 2010 by the Community Infrastructure Levy.

Some national restrictions (e.g. Town centre first, Green belts, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)).

Figure 1:

From Urban Planning & Real Estate Development

3rd Edition by John Ratcliffe et Al

The ‘new’ system

The National Planning Policy Framework was published with the main aim of replacing the previous system that had in some form or another been in place since the introduction of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 whilst streamlining the actual planning process. This has been achieved through a number of methods such as: the removal of duplication from policy, the simplification of over 1,000 pages of planning policy statements spread across 40 documents in to a single document of 50-60 pages, the removal of unnecessary information that led to system that at times contradicted itself.

The planning reforms brought about through the Localism Act and changes in national planning policy will reduce the level of central control, simplify the level of guidance and hand back more power to local communities. As an example, in the Localism Act, the Government has taken powers to scrap Regional Spatial Strategies and their housing targets and introduced a bottom up approach that enables local communities to decide the level of housing that is required in their area and share in the benefits of development.

This is a fundamentally different approach based on councils being best placed to make local decisions, holding the knowledge and expertise of their area. Supporting and building on these changes, the Framework removes a large amount of central prescription, being clear about what is Government policy and giving councils greater discretion in those areas which national policy no longer covers. This will enable them to find innovative solutions and respond to the needs of their different communities. At the same time, local people will be encouraged to reengage in the planning process through improvements in collaborative democracy and new policy vehicles such as neighbourhood plans (NPPF Impact Assessment – DCLG).

The main elements of the Governments National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and associated reforms are:

Significantly simplified national planning guidance (National planning policy is currently set out in over 1,000 pages of policy guidance and statements, with more than 6,000 pages of supporting documentation, contained within a total of more than 200 documents.)

Devolved decision making, with local authorities drawing up local plans via community consultation, subject to the NPPF and fiscal incentives to encourage development.

A presumption in favour of Sustainable Development, where this accords with local plans. If no up-to-date plans exist, then the default answer to sustainable development should be ‘yes’.

Maintain all existing protected status – that is Green Belt, SSSIs, AONBs and also retail town centre first restriction for retail development.

In parallel with the NPPF, the government is also introducing:

A reformed Community Infrastructure Levy as the main means of value capture, while limiting use of S106.

Financial incentives for new housing through the New Homes Bonus, and for commercial development via the Business Increase Bonus.

A Localism Bill and wider proposals for reforming the local Government finance.


This research seeks to analyse the validity of the justifications provided by the Coalition Government to support the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Furthermore, this research seeks to investigate whether the claims made by the government that the old system was a ‘barrier to growth’ and whether the National Planning Policy Framework will help the economy to grow and if so how.


To carry out an extensive review of available literature sources with a view to critically assessing the articles.

To investigate the claims made by the Coalition Government that Planning is a barrier to Growth.

To arrive at a conclusion, as to whether the claims and the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework were justified.

To provide recommendations for further research that may be carried out that will provide a better assessment of how the National Planning Policy Framework has impacted the country and whether or not it can be deemed successful.

Dissertation Structure

The dissertation is structured in the following manner;

Chapter 2- Research Methodology

This chapter outlines and explores the methods utilised to conduct the research required to complete this dissertation. It explains the rationale behind the methodology of the research in detail.

Chapter 3 – Literature Review

This chapter explores the claims made by the government and where possible puts forward evidence that contradicts and supports the views expressed by the government.

Chapter 4 – Summary and Conclusion

This chapter provides a summary of the findings produced by this dissertation and also draws conclusions from the literature review, meeting the aims and objectives of the study as previously outlined. Additionally, the limitations of the research and data are explored.

Chapter 5 – Recommendation for further work

This chapter outlines further research that could be carried out in order to further understand how the National Planning Policy Framework has impacted the economy, and whether it has been successful in achieving the coalition’s targets.

Research Methodology

Research Strategy

Academic literature has prescribed research a vast number of definitions, descriptions and concepts (Punch, 2000). However, throughout these definitions there is a general theme and academic consensus, that research is a process of enquiry and investigation, which through a systematic and methodical approach increases knowledge (Amaratunga et al., 2002). Furthermore, Hair Jr et al (2007), suggests that the definition of research can be further summarised as the “discerning pursuit of the truth.”

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

In regards to the above, ‘pursuit of the truth,’ the research methodology usually entails a three stage process to provide a robust and accurate analysis. Stage one, involves an initial in-depth literature review of the publications, (e.g. Estates Gazette and Property Week) published journals and academic text books, to interrogate and integrate ideas, whilst linking together concepts to provide an enhanced and informed base in which to comprehensively approach the aim of the dissertation (Naoum, 2007).

The remaining stages of the research used a combination of both quantitative and qualitative approaches, with the aim of providing conclusions based on numerical findings which are based upon a natural and realistic environment. (Amaratunga et al. 2002).

Yin (1994), states that a research strategy should be chosen as a function of the research situation. As such the research objectives had a material bearing that strongly influenced the methodology used.

Adopting a predominantly quantitative approach to the methodology, provides a platform of scientific respectability, due to the way in which findings can be presented (Denscombe. 2000) and thus interpreted (Saunders et al, 2003).

Quantitative research is objective in nature and can be defined as an inquiry in to a social or human problem, based on testing a hypothesis or a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers, and analysed with statistical procedures in order to determine whether the hypothesis or theory hold true (Creswell, 1994). Quantitative data is therefore not abstract, it is hard and reliable; it is the measurement of tangible, countable and sensate features of the world (Bouma and Atkinson, 1995). To this end it must be noted that a purely quantitative approch to data collection would be used when: you want to find facts about a concept, question or an attribute OR when you want to collect factual evidence and study the relationship between these facts in order to test a particular theory or hypothesis.

In quantitative studies, the hypotheses, research questions and aims should be presented within a theoretical framework. A theory can be introduced as: A seried of hypotheses/sub-hypothesis in the form of ‘if…then’ logic statements OR a hunch (Naoum 2007).

It is argued that to a certain degree quantitative research, fails to understand the deeper underlying factors of the subject matters and inadequately transposes its findings by way of explanation, despite its level of accuracy and validity (Denscombe, 2000).

Qualitative research on the other hand is ‘subjective’ in nature. It emphasises meanings, experiences that are often verbally described through structured or unstructured interviews and so on. The information gathered in qualitative research can be classified under two categories of research, namely exploratory and attitudinal. Exploratory research is usually employed when you have a limited amount of knowledge about your research topic. The techniques utilised for the process of data collection are usually either structured or non-structured interviews. The purpose of exploratory is usually threefold: firstly, to diagnose a situation; secondly, to screen for alternatives and thirdly, to discover new ideas (Zikmund, 1997, cited in Naoum 2007).

Creswell (1994) writes: ‘one typically finds research questions (not hypotheses) written in exploratory research. These research questions assume two levels (1) one or two “grand tour” questions followed by (2) no more than five to seven “sun-questions”.’

Attitudinal research on the other hand is used subjectively to evaluate the opinion, view or the perception of a person towards a particular object (either an attribute, variable, factor or question). Through obtaining the attitudes of individuals towards an ‘object’ of choice, a process of interpretation can begin, enabling the findings to become ‘data’ (Denscombe, M, 2000).

As mentioned previously qualitative research doesn’t tend to have clear rules on the use or placement of theory. Any hypotheses or theories that may emerge during the data collection and analysis phase of the research tend to be placed at the end of the study which require more quantitative testing. It should be noted that the research methodology is not without limitations.

Data collection is split into two fields, primary and secondary, the latter of which involves the analysis of information that has already been collected within another study and is often referred to as desk study, it is aptly named ‘secondary’ because it is concerned with analysing data for the second time (Sarantakos, 2005). Unlike secondary which is predetermined and dated, primary data compilation, also known as ‘Fieldwork’ entails the collection of current up-to-date information directly from the source, first hand, which can be of a very specific nature.

Research design

Although various assessments of the planning system (both the NPPF and the ‘old’ system) have been undertaken previously, there is limited research into the validity of the arguments presented by the Coalition government that demonstrates that the benefits of the NPPF will outweigh the costs of introducing a new system. To this end, the methodologies used within the previous studies were considered as appropriate templates, however, two research design methods were considered from which one was chosen:

The first method considered was the analysis of data from local planning authorites, this method was deemed to be impractical as it was anticipated that obtaining actual data pertaining to major developments that could be used for case studies to assess the impact of the NPPF from local planning authorites first hand would be extremely difficult. Additionally in order to carry out the assessment thoroughly, the development would have to be assessed using both planning systems, only then would the benfits of the new system (if any) become apparent.

The second method that was considered was the analysis of secondary data sources, in meeting the research objectives, the analysis of secondary data sources was deemed to be the most appropriate method of conducting the research required for this dissertation. The methodology ensured that the main points raised by the governemnt that supported the NPPF were discussed and critically analysed and also allowed any information that opposed or contradicted the governments views to be presented.

Literature Review

Sustainable Development

National planning policy issued by central government sets out guidance to councils, applicants for planning permission and other users of the planning system, about the delivery of sustainable development through the planning system.

“Planning should help to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, securing net gains against the economic, environmental and social elements of sustainable development.”

“The NPPF must set a clear framework for what development plans should contain and to this end the Localism Bill should be amended to ensure that sustainable development is at the heart of the planning system. Given the importance of the definition of sustainable development, we believe that the way in which it is expressed should be the subject of Parliamentary scrutiny, which would give the resulting definition greater weight than a policy requirement. We attach a draft amendment to the Localism Bill that would achieve this.” (NPPF Impact Assessment)

If this type of definition is not in statute then the NPPF will have to provide a clear focus for those involved in planning, drawing a distinction between how the term sustainable should be interpreted and evidenced in the development plan process and how it should apply when making determinations on applications. This is necessary due to the fact that development involves significant fixed costs that must be paid upfront and therefore it would extremely beneficial if the planning system could help to reduce or limit this level of uncertainty.

Furthermore, planning decisions can generate large sums of money for those gaining planning permission to build. For both these reasons it is imperative that decision making is transparent and governed by a clear and concise set of rules. The previous system was so complex that it did not meet these criteria. The NPPF achieves this by vastly simplifying the rules and by introducing a presumption in favour of sustainable development. Local bureaucrats and politicians will no longer get to say yes or no to development on a case-by-case basis. Instead the presumption means that they have to say yes to things that are consistent with their local plan, however, it must be noted that the presumption does not apply where the adverse impacts of development would “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits”. Many other countries successfully run systems that are (at least) this permissive, but it is less clear that this principle can be brought in immediately, given that many local areas do not have up-to-date local plans.

The NPPF will need to make the balancing exercise clear because there will be some cases where there is an unavoidable trade-off between local and national interests, for example, the government wishes to increase housing supply in England and improve the strategic infrastructure within the UK, these are both national priorities that affect specific local communities. Another reason why the NPPF will need to make the balancing exercise clear is because all too often, the limb of sustainable development that relates to the meeting of basic human needs (and in some case human rights) is sacrificed because of environmental concerns.

By setting out a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ as a central feature in the NPPF, it places more requirements on the council to be proactive in identifying and addressing the need for sustainable development. Of course there will be costs associated with reform, however, the precise impacts of the policies will vary by location and are dependent on how local communities respond to the changes outlined in the NPPF. Further, given the inherent uncertainty in the housing market, capital markets and wider economy, it is difficult to isolate the impact of the changes proposed here from those wider macro-economic factors.

Some of the benefits that will come from this presumption are reduced delays and uncertainty because where applications accord with the framework, there is likely to be some kind of impact on the speed with which decisions are made. As a result with more up to date plans adopted, the speed of obtaining planning permission (and therefore completing sustainable development) should be reduced. Even where up-to-date plans have not been adopted, the Framework provides a clear policy framework for investors and development control decisions, so that the benefits of reducing delays and uncertainty may to some extent be realised even before up-to-date, compliant plans are adopted by local authorities.

However, even modest improvements in scheme delivery times as a result of the certainty provided by up-to-date plans could produce significant effects in terms of the efficiency by which those plans are delivered and substantial benefits to society as a result of development taking place sooner.

There are other benefits associated with reduced holding costs land and other assets through the development management process; and land banks required by the uncertainty of development control and for sites that were rejected. For example, Ball (2010) notes that there are substantial holding costs associated with land banks required by the uncertainty of development control and for sites that were rejected. This could push financing costs from £1bn “to over £2bn”.

Social impacts of Old System

This section will aim to present a framework for thinking about the costs and benefits of the land use planning system. It will seek to outline how planning affects the wellbeing whilst summarising the evidence on the existence and relative importance.

To some extent, the planning system exists primarily to improve the wellbeing of humans and is achieved through the development and implementation of policies that influence land use. As with many markets, the existence of ‘market failures’ departures from ‘ideal’ market conditions which include perfect competition and fully informed participants), and concerns over the distributional effects of unregulated land markets, provide the rationale for the planning system, or to put the argument another way, create the opportunity for government or collective action to improve outcomes in terms of wellbeing. The main policy instrument used by the English planning system to achieve this goal is regulation of the supply of land available for different uses. Broadly speaking, this regulation gives the planning system the ability to control where development can occur, how much of it there can be and what kinds of development there are – although the powers of the system are asymmetric in the sense that planning can prevent but NOT ensure development.

Another way in which planning can impact upon wellbeing is through economical means.

“Economists tend to think of wellbeing as depending on the consumption of ‘goods’, where the definition of goods extends well beyond things which can be purchased from retailers. A ‘good’ is anything that contributes, positively or negatively, to human wellbeing, ranging from simple goods like an apple to the feeling of pleasure derived from knowing about the existence of a national park one may never visit.”

“Planning can influence the availability and price of many types of goods, including through reducing the amount of some things which lower wellbeing.” (Inexpensive Progress)

Goods can be classified to their characteristics: ‘externalities’ which can be positive (a pleasan


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: