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Should I apply for Permission in Principle?

Dan Hughes, associate at PWA Planning, explains the recently introduced planning consent route of Permission in Principle and how it can be used for housing-led schemes.

Permission in Principle (PIP) was introduced in June 2018 as a new route for obtaining planning permission for small scale, housing-led developments.

It is different from the more established routes of achieving planning permission because it separates the consideration of the principle of planning permission from the technical detail – known as the technical details consent (TDC) or Stage 2.

The process has some similarities with the outline / reserved matters arrangement but simplifies things further, splitting the consent into two stages.

How does it work?

The first step is to submit a Stage 1 application, which establishes whether a site is suitable in principle. The scope of this stage is limited to the proposed location, land use and the amount of development. A clear benefit of this first stage of the process is no technical information has to be submitted, with only a completed application form, location plan and application fee needed to meet the validation requirements.

Once a validated PIP application has been received by the local planning authority, it has a statutory time limit of five weeks to make a decision. This is three weeks less than the standard outline / reserved matters period of eight weeks.

Other matters are dealt with through a Stage 2 technical details application. Factors to be considered at this stage include matters of design, transport, heritage and ecology, dependent on the specific aspects of the development.

Is Permission in Principle (PIP) suitable for my development?

Applications for PIP are reserved for minor housing-led developments, usually those of nine homes or less on a site of less than half a hectare if located on greenfield land or one hectare if the land is included on the brownfield register. For commercial schemes combined with residential, the proposal must be for less than 1,000 square metres of commercial floorspace.

Why should I consider the PIP route?

Permission in Principle is billed as a quicker and more cost-effective way for those who are taking a chance on applying for housing on riskier sites. In other words, it allows the applicant to establish whether a site is suitable for homes or not, without going to the expense of a full-blown planning application.

Isn’t this just the same as holding pre-application discussions?

Pre-application advice is an existing and long-established process for a developer trying to reduce planning risk, and so this does provide some of the same benefits as PIP. However, a PIP will provide you with more certainty as in effect it secures permission on the land without the caveats provided by the local planning authority through the pre-application process.

Furthermore, it can also be dealt with in a timelier manner by the local planning authority given it is a recognised planning application, where as pre-application discussions can often fall lower down the priority list within the planning departments of councils.

What factors are considered as part of PIP?

The scope of PIP is limited to location, land use and amount of development. Other matters would be considered at the technical details consent stage.

How is PIP achieved?

There are three different ways to achieve PIP – by inclusion of the site on the local planning authority’s brownfield register; by direct application to the local planning authority; or by inclusion in a development plan document or neighbourhood plan.

Will the PIP route save me money?

To a large extent this depends on whether PIP is granted or refused. In its consultations ahead of the introduction of PIP, the government estimated that a developer of a four dwelling site would incur an additional cost of £800 in an instance where permission in principle is granted, but will save on average £22,000 in an instance where PIP is refused due to the savings in instructing technical surveys to support an outline or full planning application

In other words, if you’re chancing your arm on a risky site, the PIP route could allow you to save a substantial sum on consultancy fees should PIP be declined. However, if PIP is granted your hand is strengthened ahead of the technical details consent stage, so the cost of getting through the ‘first round’ may well feel justified.

It’s important to remember that PIP is not the same as planning permission. Even if you gain PIP, you would still need to go through the technical details consent stage, and the planning application could still be refused.

PWA Planning has recently acted for a number of landowners and developers seeking Permission in Principle. For more information on this issue, or any other planning and development matter, contact Dan Hughes on 01772 369669.

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