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Watts Bulletin (Issue 134)

Welcome to the May issue of the Watts Bulletin. After the wettest spring in living memory, the weather seems to be improving and with it we may be seeing a slight recovery in the fortunes of the construction industry. However different industry commentators are not telling the same story. Latest figures from the National Office for Statistics keep the industry firmly in recession with the total volume of construction output in the first quarter of 2012/13 indicating a fall of 4.8% compared with the fourth quarter of 2011/12.

In contrast, the latest RICS construction market survey suggests that industry workloads are showing a modest improvement, after falling for the last two consecutive quarters. Most significantly, surveyors’ projected 12-month outlook has become noticeably more optimistic with workload and employment expectations turning positive. So who should we believe? With a gloomy economic outlook and private sector activity failing to make up the public sector shortfall, it is hard to believe that there is good news on the horizon. We would be delighted to be proved wrong.

Watts Bulletin (Issue 134)

Plan to rationalise guidance following NPPF launch

Up to 6,000 pages of guidance are expected to be cut as part of the government’s plan to simplify the planning regime.

May Bulletin_Main2012

Greg Clark, Minister for Decentralisation and Cities, announced last month that following the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on 27 March, an estimated 6,000 pages of planning guidance is to be reviewed and simplified to make it more accessible for planning authorities.

Speaking at a seminar on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in London on 17 April, Clark said: “We’re now conducting a review of the underpinning guidance, which will concentrate on focusing it, finding out what is necessary to be there. We hope this will result in a body that is less voluminous than the 6,000 pages currently there at the moment.” (Source: Building)

The move to reduce the number of planning circulars and good practice guides which were produced to support former planning policy should be welcome. Former planning policy statements were almost entirely cancelled with last month’s publication of the NPPF as part of the move to introduce a new, simplified planning framework that is quicker and more responsive to the needs of local communities.

The NPPF was introduced in March in the form of a 50-page document and replaced more than 1,300 pages of planning policy in 44 separate documents. The aim of the framework is to provide clear guidance to local councils in drawing up local plans and on making decisions on planning applications.

Key elements of the NPPF include:

  • Enshrining local plans as the keystone of the planning system
  • Making planning much simpler and more accessible
  • Establishing a powerful presumption in favour of sustainable development that underpins plans and decision-making
  • Protecting the natural and historic environment, including the green belt, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Encouraging the use of brownfield land in a way determined locally.

The new framework came into force in March.

For more information on the NPPF contact Allen Gilham, associate at Watts Group PLC, on 020 7280 8094 or visit the Department for Communities and Local Government website at

What are your views on the NPPF? Does it do enough to simplify the planning process? Get involved with the debate on Watts’ Twitter page @Watts_Group or join the Watts Bulletin group on LinkedIn.

The Watts Bulletin is the technical companion to the Watts Pocket Handbook, the essential guide to property and construction, as used by professionals since 1983.

Watts Bulletin editor: Trevor Rushton.