Presumption in favour of sustainable development

The following Planning practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Presumption in favour of sustainable development
  • Policy context
  • What is sustainable development?
  • What is the presumption in favour of sustainable development?
  • Plan-making
  • Decision-taking
  • Exceptions
  • Development plan

Presumption in favour of sustainable development

Policy context

The original version of the National Planning Policy Framework (2012 NPPF) was published on 27 March 2012, taking immediate effect. It consolidated over 1,000 pages of planning policy statements, guidance and circulars into one document. At the heart of the 2012 NPPF was the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

In July 2018, the government published a revised NPPF and that was subject to minor changes made in a February 2019 version.

Further revisions have been made in what is now the current version of the NPPF, published on 20 July 2021 (the 2021 NPPF).

The 2018, 2019 and 2021 versions of the NPPF retain the presumption in favour of sustainable development, but with a change in emphasis and operation, as discussed in this Practice Note.

For an overview of how the presumption operated under the 2012 NPPF, see archived Practice Note: Presumption in favour of sustainable development in the 2012 NPPF (ARCHIVED).

What is sustainable development?

The NPPF explains that the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. It notes that at a ‘very high level’, the objective of sustainable development can be summarised as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The 2021 NPPF also reminds us that members of the United Nations, including the

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