From the 1st June 2018 onwards, developers have been able to apply for permission in principle for small-scale residential developments as an alternative to obtaining full planning permission. The permission in principle route comprises two stages; the first helps to establish whether a site is suitable for residential development, whilst the second (“technical details consent”) stage is the point at which there is an assessment of the detailed development proposals. If successful, a developer will need to follow up the permission in principle within three years by making an application for technical details consent, which will include detailed design considerations.

The concept of permission in principle was originally introduced in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. It is believed that this new concept will provide more certainty to developers over the principle of a proposed development in terms of land use, location and amount of development, without the need to spend money or resources on making a full planning application.

The hope is that increasing certainty at the earliest stages of the development process will have huge benefits in terms of encouraging more small developers to undertake their own projects. It is also thought that permission in principle will help to alleviate delays as the negotiation of conditions is often the most time-consuming element of the planning process.

In response, a recent study by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has indicated that attaching automatic planning permission to housing land in this way would have limited impact in regards to an increase in the supply of new homes. Research into this new route has also revealed that interviewees from a wide range of professions, including planners, surveyors, developers, financiers and built environment experts were unsure what benefits would emerge.

The interviewees were also concerned about land speculation and the rise in prices of land, as well as the capacity of local authorities to effectively undertake permission in principle due to the detailed site information required to ensure there are no constraints that would prevent development.

Richard Blyth, head of policy practice and research at the RTPI, stated that there is a “delicate balance that a planning system needs to achieve between flexibility and certainty, democracy and development efficiency. It appears that while zoning-like mechanisms like permission in principle may be useful in limited cases, they would not make development significantly easier.” He concluded his statement by saying “our planning system already has various existing ways to increase certainty for developers. Local authorities should be more proactive in deploying those means”.

While there are certainly benefits to the permission in principle concept in terms of reducing delays in the system and encouraging small developers to  add to the housing supply, there are doubts as to whether there will be as much of an effect as desired.

If you are a developer and would like help with submitting a planning application under permission in principle, Fuller Long can be of assistance. Our consultants are experts in the field and have had considerable success over the years. Call 0808 164 1288 or email to speak with one of our Consultants today.