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Future shape of planning policy uncertain ahead of UK general election, says expert

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is likely to remain in place following the UK general election despite pledges from two political parties to replace it, a planning expert has said.21 Apr 2015

The future shape of the country's planning policy may still depend on which parties are involved in what is likely to be a coalition government following the 7 May election.

Both the Green Party and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) released general election manifestos last week calling for the NPPF to be scrapped. However, planning expert Ben Arrowsmith of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said neither party was likely to have enough members of parliament following the general election to insist on such sweeping reforms. None of the three biggest parties, the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, has indicated an intention to dispense with the NPPF.

"Given that the latest polls predict only three seats for UKIP and one for the Green Party, it is unlikely that either party will be in a position to press for its particular reforms of planning policy to be accommodated wholesale," said Arrowsmith. "However, there are a number of synergies between the manifestos of the main parties in England that may offer guidance as to certain of the policies that can be expected after the election."

"It appears that the three major parties, along with UKIP and the Green Party, agree on the importance of brownfield development as well as the need to boost the UK's housing supply, particularly for affordable homes," noted Arrowsmith. "Further devolution of planning powers to city and county regions should also be expected, given its backing by the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats."

"Should the Labour Party form a government with the Liberal Democrats, we can probably expect action to reduce the number of long-term empty homes, a policy that receives support in some form in both parties' manifestos as well as those of the Greens and UKIP," Arrowsmith said.

"If the Liberal Democrats are involved in some colour of coalition post 7 May, a new community right of appeal may come to the negotiating table, with both Nick Clegg's party and the Greens pledging to introduce such a right where planning decisions go against local planning policy," added Arrowsmith.