Permission in Principle

How Helpful Will It Be?

Insufficient time has passed to know whether February’s Housing White Paper ‘Fixing our Broken Housing Market’ will live up to its billing.

Despite its long gestation, or possibly because of this, the White Paper was less a blue print for delivery and more a document pointing its way to more changes to the planning system.

The consultation on the White Paper ended in early May with potential for reporting on the outcome over the Summer, with changes to be brought in following the Budget announcements scheduled for Autumn.

Under the Government’s many initiatives on planning for housing delivery is Permission in Principle (PiP). Arising out of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, regulations in the form of a statutory instrument came into force in April applicable to England only.

The regulations enable local planning authorities to grant PiP on sites contained in a register of previously developed land also known as a brownfield land register and on land allocated within a development plan document.

PiP is intended to introduce a slimmed-down route to obtaining permission to develop land, addressing matters such as land use, location and quantum of development. 

Once the principle has been established an application for ‘technical details consent’ is to be prepared for consideration by the local planning authority and conditions controlling the development may be imposed. Related parts of the application process remain relevant including potential screening under the EIA regulations and power of appeal against the decision of the local planning authority.

It is anticipated that the take-up of PiP will be limited because of the complexity and uncertainty surrounding the new process. The Government has said guidance will be published in June however it has given local planning authorities the power to decide when PiP on individual sites will come into force and therefore the ability to delay implementation in some areas. 

It is unlikely that landowners, developers and promoters of land for residential development will wait for the new process to bed-in and be tested given the uncertainty and cost involved in seeking PiP. Local planning authorities will need to identify resource to deal with the new measures and may consider seeking recovery of this through setting of fees for advice prior to the granting of PiP including approval of the technical details consent.

Whilst PiP might be an attractive option for larger scale and mixed-use sites prior to involvement of the developer, there is otherwise little threat to the current system of outline planning permission followed by reserved matters. 

It will be interesting to see the number of PiP applications and scale of housing delivery when the Government reports on this later in the year.

Housing development 32808258

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