Latest – see our new post-Budget 2012 reaction post here.

It’s a case of the rumours being so strong that it must almost certainly be true. The planning world expects the National Planning Policy Framework to be unveiled amongst the announcements of how many pence on petrol, pints and packs of cigarettes in next Wednesday’s Budget.

Just to recap the NPPF is the document set to streamline English national planning policy by sweeping aside the 1000 pages of existing Planning Policy Statements and Guidance notes and replace it with just 50 pages. Such a compression was never going to be easy and then add into the mix the inherent conflict between the Government’s Localism agenda and its obvious desire to kick start the economy including the bumping-along-the-bottom development industry and well we saw the fireworks. And now we can sit back and enjoy the grand finale of the show before all goes quiet and we trudge home with ringing in our ears wondering whether the high cost but short lifespan of these things is really worthwhile.

Actually for those active in planning it is certainly no time for sitting back. Firstly we’ve got to read the thing. Then we’ve got to spot anything relevant to the jobs we’re currently working on. The Planning Inspectorate will write to us seeking our views on the subject in relation to all live appeals which we have in. Any Design and Access Statements, Planning Statements, Appeal Statements currently in the pipeline will need to be updated to reflect the changes. There is lots to be done. Good job it is only 50 pages.

The immediate question everyone will ask is whether the document which George Osborne pulls out of his red box shows a Government standing its ground or conceding to the countryside protectionist lobby. But the longer term more important question is whether it will make much difference anyway to the countryside, to the development industry or to housing the population.

Oh the other (medium term) question is: legal challenge anyone?