Six proposed changes to permission in principle

Plans to allow larger housing projects to make use of the permission in principle (PiP) route is among a series of proposed changes to the PiP process set out in a government consultation document.

Boris Johnson visits a construction site in August 2020 (Pic: Getty)
Boris Johnson visits a construction site in August 2020 (Pic: Getty)

Introduced via the Housing and Planning Act 2016, planning permission in principle (PiP) aims to provide a fast-track route through the planning process for housing-led developments. It splits the permission process in two, allowing residential proposals to secure PiP first and achieve full consent later through a further technical details consent (TDC).

The housing ministry's Changes to the current planning system consultation document published earlier this month outlined a series of revisions to the process that ministers are keen to introduce. Below are six key changes.

1. The consultation document proposes extending the scope of the current PiP by application route to major development. Since 2018, developers have been able to apply for PiP to develop schemes of fewer than ten homes. The consultation document proposes allowing PiP applications for up to 150 dwellings, excluding major developments that would be subject to environmental impact assessments or habitats assessments.

2. The consultation proposes a revised fee structure to incentivise the use of PiP as a cheaper alternative to outline planning permission. The PiP fee is currently capped at £4,000 for a one-hectare development – just less than the cost of an outline planning application at £4,600. "We are keen to promote Permission in Principle by application as a more streamlined and cheaper alternative to outline permission," the document states. The consultation favours a simplified banded fee structure, with a fixed fee per 0.1-hectare in each band and a maximum fee cap.

3. Any PiP granted permission via an application would be automatically included on Part 2 of a local authority's brownfield land register. To create a clear national picture of brownfield sites deemed suitable for housing, the consultation proposes that all PiP “consents” on brownfield land should also be automatically recorded in part 2 of the register. Part 2 consists of sites that have been granted automatic PiP by the local planning authority.

4. The government wants to strengthen national planning guidance for developers choosing to take the PiP consent route. The document cites anecdotal evidence that there is “limited” understanding of the process, purpose and benefits of PiP among landowners, developers and local authorities. By providing more guidance on around PiP, the consultation hopes to mitigate any confusion.

5. The government wants to maintain the same minimal information requirements for PiP applications but is considering whether further details on height should be needed. The document says the government is "interested in whether, given the larger scale of development", developers in their PiP applications should have to provide details on the "maximum height threshold parameter, in terms of number of storeys".

6. PiP applications could be subject to more flexible publicity requirements. Currently, PiP applications can be publicised via a site notice and website publication. The consultation asks whether the rules should be changed to allow more flexibility if the statutory requirements cannot be met, including publicising applications through the use of social media.

The document containing all the key proposals can be found here, and is open for consultation until 1 October 2020.

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