Soil Surveys, Environmental Assessment & Land Management

What is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)?


Introduction to the NPPF

The NPPF was first published by the UK government in March 2012. It consolidates previously issued planning policy documents into one place and aims to make the planning system more accessible. 

What is the NPPF?

The NPPF sets out the government’s planning policies for development in England, planning practise guidance explaining how policies are to be applied is also provided online.

The NPPF stance on different types of land use must be taken into account by local planning authorities when they are forming local planning policies and providing decisions on planning applications.

What Does the NPPF Cover?

The NPPF covers all national planning issues and is the main statement of Government policy on how development in England should happen. Whenever any land development project is carried out, it must take into consideration and abide by what the NPPF states about different types of land use. Topics covered by the NPPF are:

  • The economy
  • Town centres
  • The rural economy,
  • Sustainable transport
  • Communications infrastructure
  • Housing design
  • Healthy communities
  • Green Belt
  • Climate changes, flooding and coastal change
  • The natural environment (soils and agricultural land resources covered under this topic)
  • The historic environment
  • Minerals
  • Plan-making
  • Decision-taking

You can read the latest version of the National Planning Policy Framework and what it states here.

Revised NPPF 2018

The NPPF was revised and updated in July 2018. This was carried out in a bid to support the UK government’s house building targets. Alongside the revised framework, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) published supporting documents including:

  • Draft revised National Planning Policy Framework: government response
  • National Planning Policy Framework: equality impact assessment
  • Housing Delivery Test measurement rule book
  • Government’s new planning rulebook to deliver more quality, well designed homes (press release)

The revised version has eleven identifiable points where changes have been made:

  1. Design policies have become a key focus as a way of boosting house building
  2. The possibility for plans to set out circumstances when further viability assessment may be required in determining individual planning applications has been removed
  3. Standardised methodology and housing delivery test are confirmed
  4. There is a lower requirement for small (and medium) sized sites
  5. There is more clarity on strategic and non-strategic policies
  6. The diversification of England’s town centres is promoted
  7. More details of the powers that proactive local planning authorities should use to meet their identified needs
  8. Minor wording changes on the Green Belt policies
  9. Local planning authorities are expected to maintain or ‘have access to’ a historic environment record
  10. The policies in the 2012 NPPF still apply to plans submitted before 24 January 2019
  11. Social rent is referenced as an ‘affordable housing for rent’ product rather than in its own right

Widely discussed is Paragraph 79 in the 2018 version of the NPPF, which was formally Paragraph 55. This refers to an update that states planning policies and decisions should avoid the development of isolated homes in the countryside unless certain circumstances can be met”, which includes the design being of exceptional quality.

NPPF – Soils and Agriculture

Soils and agricultural resources are covered in Chapter 15 of the NPPF (paragraph 170-171). The legislative framework requires planning authorities to ensure they are ‘protecting and enhancing soils (in a manner commensurate with their...identified quality in the development plan)’ and ‘recognising the economic and other benefits of best and most versatile agricultural land’. 

The NPPF states that ‘Plans should:...allocate land with the least environmental...value, where consistent with other policies in this Framework...where significant development of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, areas of poorer quality land should be preferred to those of a high quality’. 

This is where we come in! To keep in line with the NPPF it is important that developers and local authorities commission an Agricultural Land Classification Survey during the planning application process. The survey is used to map soil resources and grade agricultural land quality - quantifying land within the best and most versatile category. 

If you wish to discuss ALC requirements, please contact us on +44 (0)1509 670570 or email