1.1. The English planning system has played a major role in shaping the development of the nation for decades. Under the umbrella of the English Planning system, the report shall investigate how the city of Leicester’s growth and change is managed and controlled, more specifically by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Local plans and Development Management.
2. Introduction to Leicester
2.1. “Leicester is the tenth largest city in England… and has been designated as a new growth point, where by government funding will be made available for infrastructure to support major new developments.” (Leicester City Council, 2014) Leicester’s economic action plan (2016-2020) boasts £70 million in investments and the creation of 5,160 jobs from 2012-2016. Its population, 350,000 (Martin, 2017), is set to grow by 21.2% from 2011-2036 (Gl Hearn, 2017) which will further escalate the pressure on the City Council to develop a suitable local plan. Because of this population growth, Leicester will require 25,600 homes to be built by 2026, however it currently only has a potential supply of 22,553, leaving a 3,047 deficit. (Leicester City Council, 2014) The expansion Leicester is experiencing and the pressures as a result make it the ideal candidate in explaining how the English planning system affects a settlement’s growth due to the number of developments that will need to, and are, occurring to cater for demographic change.
3. Introduction to the English Planning System
3.1. There are three key parts to the English planning system; the NPPF, the Local Plan and development management. All three work together in cohesion but vary in their authority and goals.
4. National Planning Policy Framework
4.1. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was first brought in by the 2010 coalition government. It was introduced to speed up the planning process and assist development to assist the economy in its struggle to grow. After some opposition, it was later edited in 2012. (Johnson, 2014) The 2012 NPPF, in brief, is a document the Government issues “containing the expectations of how councils should develop their local plan in order to be consistent with national policy.” (Gov, 2016) Although it may appear to be a document enforcing conformity throughout the nation, the NPPF acts more like a guide of which must be followed where relevant and necessary. (Department for communities and local government, 2012)
5. Local Plans
5.1. A local plan, produced by the local council, contains the overall strategy for the development of a certain area, in this case Leicester city. It portrays the socio-economic and environmental needs and opportunities in an area through a clear document while informing the public as to where these considerations may occur on a broad policy map. Most local plans are updated every 5 years with the exception of the housing category. This is considered to be obsolete if the local council cannot prove there is a deliverable five-year supply. As well as offering an overall strategy, local plans are also used to consider the acceptance or refusal of planning permissions presented for smaller developments. The reason being that developments need to stay in line with local plans so to contribute to the local council’s overall goal instead of hindering it. (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, 2017)
6. Development management
6.1. Development management focuses more on the grant or refusal of planning permission, for example, whether to grant a development or a change of use for a building to suit local and national policy. Development management can be split into two parts; development plan and development control. (Johnson, 2014)The development plan provides a policy direction and is more general. For example, it may provide a limit on the number of industrial units that are allowed in a certain locality. Development control is more focused on, to some extent, micro managing. It provides a means of meeting the targets set in the local plan as well as conforming to the NPPF by dealing with individual plots in more detail. This allows it to sculpt lands use and location to suit the local plan. (Johnson, 2014)
7. Ashton Green
7.1. A development is occurring upon a greenfield site on the north west edge of Leicester that has been shaped by both policies in the Leicester city local plan, the NPPF and is subject to development management making it an ideal example of how the English planning system influences development. The council is selling of parcels of land to bidders, in the section marked on the map, who can demonstrate that they will develop to the requirements set out by the council’s plan.17 The development is occurring due to government and local goals. Within the NPPF, the government has identified that the current supply of new housing is inefficient in the UK. One of the NPPF’s main aims is to increase the delivery of new homes to meet the demand that is currently exceeding supply. (Leicester city council, 2014)Because of this, Leicester’s local plan has identified that 25,600 new homes must be built between 2006-2026 in order to meet the NPPF’s goal, and its own, in supplying enough housing for the city’s population. (Leicester City Council, 2014) The policies that set out this requirement and Leicester’s strategy are found in section CS1 and CS6 of the local core plan. (Leicester city council, 2014) Ashton green is a vital development as it will provide the city with up to 3,500 homes. (Leicester City Council, 2014) To this extent, the NPPF has influenced an outward growth of the city of Leicester. However, the expansion has not just occurred in any random location and the houses being built are subject to controls and measures under the English planning system. Following the indication of a movement towards sustainability in the NPPF, the local council has set a clear vision for how Ashton Green is to be developed. Ashton Greens development plan is to provide a sustainable community in which natural areas are protected. The local council is achieving this through development control. The winning bidder of each parcel of land at Ashton green can only develop in keeping with the council’s masterplan framework for the whole site. For example, the homes themselves at Ashton green must be designed and built so to have either a low carbon footprint or none over time. This may be done through a variety of techniques such as maximising day light through design so to use less lighting and thus energy or using efficient insulation so to keep the temperature of the building stable. It must also be remembered that when the homes are under construction the council requires it to be done in a sustainable way. Such as by reusing material off cuts where possible to reduce waste. However, perhaps a more key factor in achieving sustainability is the construction of a community whereby citizens are less reliant on cars due to highly efficient and sustainable public transport. The overall masterplan for Ashton green includes the construction of walking, cycling and public transport links. Ashton Green is described by the council as a place “designed for people rather than cars… and an exemplar of sustainable development.” From this example of development management we see Leicester’s growth is controlled by the English planning system. New properties such as in Ashton Green are subject to certain requirements shaping Leicester’s growth as sustainable rather than purely for private profit and maximisation of growth whereby the environment may suffer.
8. Empty Homes Strategy
8.1. However, the development of Ashton Green was only a last resort for Leicester’s city council in providing enough homes for the target. The NPPF indicates that planning authorities are only to release land once previously developed land or under used buildings have been utilized for providing new homes. 8 As a result Leicester city council adopted an empty homes strategy that has been in action since 2004 showing how the NPPF can influence the management of the city of Leicester to some extent. The policy relies on individuals reporting empty homes, the council finding the owner if possible, and offering advice on how to utilise it for example by letting it out. If owners refuse to cooperate to a reasonable level the council can acquire the building via the Compulsory Purchase Order. As a result of this policy, over 2,700 privately owned properties have become available for use. (Leicester City Council, 2014) Although this policy has proved successful, the brownfield sites and underused buildings within urban areas were not sufficient to provide enough housing required by the local council so they had to look to potential development areas like Ashton Green.