Are you ready for permission in principle?

Are you ready for permission in principle?

A new type of planning application comes into effect in England from 1 June 2018.  It will be possible to submit an application to the local planning authority for ‘permission in principle’ for housing proposals. What is this and might it be of benefit to you?

It is a way of confirming whether a proposed small scale housing scheme is acceptable in principle before incurring the costs associated with the preparation of the detailed information that may be required to show the impacts of the scheme are also acceptable.

The government have created this new type of planning application to help improve the supply of new homes on small sites (fewer than 10 homes).  It is an alternative to submitting an application for ‘full planning permission’ or for ‘outline planning permission’.  It is a ‘lite’ version of an application for outline permission and if successful it must then be followed up with an application for ‘technical details consent’, which will be a lot like an application for approval of ‘reserved matters’.

Compared to the existing types of application, less information is required to support an application for permission in principle.  It will only need to be accompanied by a site location plan and a description of the development that covers both the use proposed and the amount of development. It can therefore be a cheaper option if the other two alternatives would require funds to be spent producing other information to accompany the application.

It will be useful in cases where

– there is an element of doubt about whether a proposal for small scale residential development, or the scale of a scheme, would or would not be acceptable in principle, and

– seeking to find this out via either of the other two options would incur costs you would rather avoid until you have more certainty on the acceptability in principle, and

– you want the certainty a formal permission will give you compared to an informal opinion from the Council in response to a request for pre-application advice.

How often the permission in principle route will be useful is hard to say. There are a number of things to bear in mind and two leading issues are

First, this is a completely new concept and no-one yet knows how local planning authorities will deal with an application with so little information. Will they take a positive approach or will they be more inclined to issue a refusal because, for them, that seems the less risky option?

Second, getting permission in principle will not guarantee getting consent for the technical details. Gritty issues may still need to be dealt with, from managing flood risk and safeguarding protected wildlife, to achieving safe means of access and avoiding undue loss of privacy for neighbours.

Further government guidance is expected which will give applicants and local authorities greater certainty over how this new system should operate.

Permission in principle is not expected to replace applications for full and outline permission, or requests for pre-application advice. Far from it. It may prove to be a relative rarity. But there will be some cases where it will provide a better alternative and it is therefore a useful addition to the developer’s tool box, even if you find you only need to use it every once in a long while.

More information on permission in principle can be found on the following websites

Planning guidance from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

The regulations are to be found in the Town and Country Planning (Permission in Principle) (Amendment) Order 2017

Permission to land?’, an article by Jamie McKie at law firm Dentons, provides a legal overview.