A campaign led by the Theatres Trust has been successful in lobbying for arts and culture to be included in the government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The draft NPPF was published in July last year, aiming to sweep away the complexity of the previous policy, which ran to 1,300 pages. This led to protest in the arts and culture sector as the new policy proposals made no reference to culture or the arts (AP241). The new Framework, a mere 50 pages long, recognises that a key dimension of ‘sustainable development’ is its social role in supporting “cultural well-being” through the provision of a “high quality built environment, with accessible local services.” It aims to hand greater power over to communities with the introduction of local plans, which will be responsive to local people’s views but set within the parameters of the Framework.
Director of The Theatres Trust Mhora Samuel said: “Today we celebrate a national planning policy that not only recognises culture, it also creates specific policies that both plan positively for cultural facilities and guard against their loss.” The NPPF states that a range of suitable sites should be allocated for cultural development, in order to meet the needs of each town, and assessments should be done to ensure that suitable sites for theatres, museums, galleries and concert halls are available. It also recognises the need to plan positively and guard against the unnecessary loss of valued cultural facilities and services. Specific reference is made to promoting the retention and development of facilities in rural areas.
Some concerns have been raised by the National Campaign for the Arts that the NPPF does not go far enough to secure the sector’s protection, and the Theatres Trust is keen for a more consistent cultural voice to be raised within the planning system. In response it is bringing together 19 arts and cultural organisations to form the Culture in Planning Alliance. Members include ixia, the National Federation of Artist Studio Providers, Arts Development UK and Voluntary Arts. The group aims to promote the role of arts and culture in the planning system, share expertise and produce guidance on cultural planning.