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Presumption in favour of sustainable developmentPotential approach

This statement indicates an approach that the Government could take to introducing a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework. It fulfils our commitment in the Plan for Growth (external link), published on 23 March 2011, and will help to inform discussion about the way it would operate.

Sustainable development and planning

The Government is committed to ensuring that the planning system does everything it can to support long term, sustainable economic growth, and has made it clear that significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic recovery through the planning system and related consent regimes.

Our approach to sustainable development involves making the necessary decisions now to realise our vision of stimulating economic growth and tackling the deficit, maximising wellbeing and protecting our environment, without negatively impacting on the ability of future generations to do the same.

The three ‘pillars’ of the economy, society and environment are interconnected. Our long term economic growth relies on protecting and enhancing the environmental resources that underpin it, and paying due regard to social needs.

To help achieve this, the Government’s clear expectation is that we move to a system where the default answer to development is ‘yes’, except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in national planning policy. Planning should help to deliver:

  • a strong, flexible and sustainable economy, by ensuring that sufficient land of the right type, and in the right places, is available to allow growth and innovation; and by identifying and coordinating development requirements, including the provision of infrastructure
  • protection and enhancement of our natural, built and historic environment, prudent use of natural resources and actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy
  • strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing an increased supply of housing to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by creating a good quality built environment, with accessible local services, that reflects community needs and supports well-being
A presumption in favour of sustainable developmentThe presumption is key to delivering these ambitions, by creating a positive, pro-development framework, but one underpinned by the wider economic, environmental and social provisions in the National Planning Policy Framework. The presumption is as follows:

There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development at the heart of the planning system, which should be central to the approach taken to both plan-making and decision-taking. Local planning authorities should plan positively for new development, and approve all individual proposals wherever possible.

Local planning authorities should:

  • Prepare local plans on the basis that objectively assessed development needs should be met, and with sufficient flexibility to respond to rapid shifts in demand or other economic changes
  • Approve development proposals that accord with statutory plans without delay and
  • Grant permission where the plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date
All of these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policy objectives in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.Communities & Local Government 20.06.2011