Lewis insists 'permission in principle' schemes will be housing-led

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis has told a committee of MPs that secondary legislation will ensure planning permission in principle granted under the Housing and Planning Bill is 'residential-led', but he stopped short of specifying development must be 'predominantly residential'.

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis

At a Westminster committee meeting on amendments to the bill yesterday, Lewis told MPs that limiting the proposed permission in principle powers to housing alone would hamper mixed-use schemes and those with community facilities.

An amendment proposed by Labour MPs would have specified that land could only be allocated for development in local plans and neighbourhood plans with permission in principle if it was to be used for housing.

Lewis said the government was "very clear"  that permission in principle was to be used for housing-led development.

"Our intention is to set out in secondary legislation that as long as a site allocation includes residential development, local authorities will be able to grant permission in principle for other uses," he said.

"In a mixed-use development, developers may wish to have some retail premises, community buildings and other things that are compatible with residential properties, but ultimately that will be a decision for the local authority."

Shadow housing and planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods said she was "still a little anxious" about the scope of developments that could be given permission in principle, but withdrew the amendment.

Lewis subsequently said ministers had "no intention" of allowing permission in principle to last in perpetuity, and would launch a consultation shortly, before setting a "sensible" duration in secondary legislation.

"The power in the bill currently gives an important flexibility to ensure that, in appropriate circumstances, where a plan or register is revised or updated, it does not automatically mean that permission in principle comes to an end," he said. This is necessary for technical reasons to ensure that permission in principle can work effectively". 

Lewis said that as the bill’s proposed brownfield registers would be updated by local authorities on an annual basis, it would be necessary to ensure that permission in principle could last longer than a one-year period.

The committee is due to resume debating the bill on Tuesday.