Published in DIY Week’s ‘Property Matters’ column

Mike Gilbert, Head of Garden Centres at Gilbert Evans invites planning expert Mary Davidson, WYG Planning & Design to explain the relevance of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to garden centre owners and operators.

In late March the Government published the much heralded NPPF. The intention of the NPPF is to simplify and streamline the planning process to facilitate growth in sustainable development. The document sets out the Government’s overriding planning policies and a framework on which Councils should produce their Local Plans and it revokes all previous planning policy. The NPPF policy guidance came into immediate effect, with a presumption in favour of sustainable development, whereby if a development is demonstrated to be sustainable, it can be approved without delay.

Green Belt – opportunities for development loosened a notch

In terms of development within Green Belt, the definition of development not deemed to be inappropriate has been expanded to include limited extensions to any building. The document states that exception should be given to the construction of new buildings in the Green Belt where the extension or alteration of a building does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building. Green Belt policy had previously only allowed this in relation to dwellings. This would therefore allow the expansion of facilities within a Garden Centre, such as restaurants, cafes, sales (subject to justification) without recourse to the previous automatic default button of “no new building in the Green Belt” .It is considered that the NPPF has eased the development of non-residential development such as garden centres located within the Green Belt and open countryside.

 What it means for Local Plan policies

 The Development Plan in a Local Authority area is the key consideration against which all applications are determined. The NPPF immediately overrides any Local Plan documents adopted prior to 2004 and any saved policies in these plans will be afforded limited weight. If the local Plan has been adopted since 2004, then decision makers can continue for a period of 12 months to give full weight to relevant policies in those plans, even if there is a limited degree of conflict with the NPPF. In cases where Councils have not got an updated development plan since 2004 or following the 12 month period, due weight should be given to relevant policies in existing plans according to their degree of consistency with the NPPF.  In the case of current Local Plan policies relating to new buildings in the Green Belt or countryside, they normally state that approval will not be given, except in very special circumstances for the construction of new buildings. However if this policy dates back to early 2004, it is considered to be out of date and limited material weight can now be given to it in light of the publication of the NPPF.

In summary, the key points within the NPPF relevant to garden centre owners and operators are:

 •  The definition of development within Green Belt not deemed to be inappropriate has been expanded to include limited extension to any building.

•   The Development Plan is the document by which all applications are determined, although limited weight can be given to the policies adopted prior to 2004.

• The NPPF is anticipated to encourage greater cooperation from Local Planning Authorities on Green Belt and open countryside development.

 Mary Davidson –

Mike Gilbert –