Advantages and pitfalls of
'Permission in Principle'

A leading planning specialist from Bidwells was part of a panel of experts at a Westminster Briefing event to discuss the potential advantages and pitfalls of 'Permission in Principle'.

Rob Hopwood, Planning Partner, at Bidwells was asked to present on behalf of the private development sector on the Government’s planned introduction of the new 'Permission in Principle' (PiP) route for obtaining permission on brownfield sites.  

The Government is to bring into force new legislation in 2017, which will be a separate decision making process, as an alternative to obtaining planning permission. It will separate out the in principle decision from matters of technical detail which will be dealt with at a later stage.  

Through the housing bill, it provides for Permission in Principle to be granted on sites in plans and registers and for minor sites of less than 10 dwellings by application to LPAs.

The idea of the new route is to shorten the application process to support the delivery of new homes

Rob Hopwood, Partner, Planning

Mr Hopwood continued: "The current planning application processes require too much information to be produced up front, before there is certainty that development can go ahead in principle.  In simple terms, certainty about whether land is suitable for development can bring benefits for all."

At the briefing, Mr Hopwood asked Steve Quartermain, the Government’s Chief Planner, as to whether or not the Government was going to change the definition of brownfield land when the updated version of the NPPF is published this summer. 

Steve Quartermain implied that there would be little or no change to the definition of brownfield land, but advised all local planning authorities present, that delays in the planning application process are costing developers money, not just time. He implored LPAs to be much more pro-active in delivering housing on brownfield sites.

More than a 100 people attended the briefing and were told that PiP will be given automatically on sites in new brownfield registers, local and neighbourhood plans, with those sites under 10 unit size, having to submit PiP applications which cover the parameters of location, use and amount of development.  

During the event Mr Hopwood sought to explain, explore and discuss the finer details behind PIP.

It became clear at the briefing that the burden of environmental impact assessment would be maintained even after exiting the EU, and there is every indication that LPAs will have to prepare and manage EIAs on PIP sites.

"However I did make it clear at the briefing that this was a very unlikely scenario given the pressures already on LPA budgets and staff, which would mean it would be left to developers' planning/EIA advisors to provide the necessary EIA expertise to support Permission in Principle."

He added: "What could be possible with PiP is that LPAs could give PiP across the board for a number of sites at the same time, PiP is not a zoning system but would use SHLAA registers to identify only those brownfield sites which could be delivered on the ground. There would be no reason to limit the type of development that PiP could be used for, although PiP is entirely devised to deliver housing.  

"PiP will give encouragement for the small to medium housebuilders to re-enter the market. A few years ago there were over 12,000 SME builders registered and there are only 3,000 now. For the sites of 10 dwellings or less, there are great opportunities for getting PiP resolved early and deal with the technical details later, giving certainty to landowners and developers, and for the delivery of housing."

If you would like to find out more about PiP and its latest developments, give Rob a call on 01223 559207, or email rob.hopwood@bidwells.co.uk

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