Permission in principle: One step removed from prior approval and permitted development?

It's been just over 9 weeks since the Housing and Planning Bill was introduced into the House of Commons. One of the main talking points, which followed the first reading, was the proposed introduction of "permission in principle".

Interestingly the new law would give "the Secretary of State the power, by a development order, to grant permission in principle to land that is allocated for development in a qualifying document."

The land that will benefit is expected to be limited to that land which is allocated for development in new brownfield registers, development plan documents and neighbourhood plans. It is understood that provided the land meets the requirements of the development order, and is within the above documents, permission in principle will automatically be granted. Permission in principle could also be applied for land on its own, however this is likely to be limited in scope to housing proposals with less than 10 units.

This could be likened, at least in part then, to the prior approval procedure within permitted development rights. What differs though is that once permission in principle is granted, technical details consent (which may contain conditions) must still be applied for and received before planning permission is obtained.

It is therefore a combined process whereby both planning in principle and technical details consent must be obtained for the granting of full planning permission.

Is there a need for permission in principle?

Given that we have outline permissions, full permissions and prior approval permissions and more generally permitted development - is there really a need for permission in principle?

The Government's impact assessment report sets out that it expects around 7,000 sites could benefit from this change. The report states that it expects implementation of permission in principle is likely to provide applicants with "significant" savings by removing "fewer unsuccessful applications".

The Government argues that if permission in principle is implemented it will not only speed up the process, but will also provide added certainty to applications at an earlier stage and ultimately save applicants money.

On the other hand there are concerns that this will  increase the workload for planning authorities and therefore have a paradoxical effect by slowing the planning process down.

Permission in principle does look set to find its way into the Housing and Planning Bill in one form or another and therefore practitioners, planners and developers will need to get to grips with the procedure in whatever form it is eventually enacted.

DCLG Consultation

The Department for Communities and Local Government is carrying out a consultation on the implementation of the planning measures in the Housing and Planning Bill from 18 February - 16 April 2016.  Further information on the overall consultation can be found here and more detailed information on how permission in principle is covered in the consultation can be found here.

This article was jointly written by David Richardson.

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