Permission in principle

In January this year we submitted a permission in principle (PIP) application for a small residential scheme in Hoddesdon. It is the first time we have made such an application and, from my discussions with planning officers, I understand it is the first one the local authority has received since this new route to planning permission was introduced last year.

The scope of PIP is limited to location, land use and the amount of development. It is only available for minor developments, defined as up to nine homes and under 1,000sqm of floorspace on a site of less than one hectare. It does not apply to sites subject to an EIA or habitats legislation.

The PIP route has two stages. The first stage ‘Permission in Principle’ establishes whether a site is suitable for development, and the council must specify the number of dwellings that are permitted. The local authority has a period of five weeks to consider the application and to issue its decision.

Once PIP is established, the second stage ‘Technical Details Consent’ is when the detailed development proposals are assessed. The technical details application must be made within 3 years.

The political driver behind the legislation is to provide a cost-effective incentive for developers and landowners to identify and make applications for residential development on potential sites to meet the demand for housing.

The aim is to provide a mechanism by which developers can establish certainty about the principle of a proposed development without needing to incur the significant costs associated with a full-scale planning application.

For some, the PIP route to planning permission simply adds to the complexity of the planning system. After all, a PIP is not dissimilar to outline planning, and technical detail consent is not fundamentally different from detailed planning.

However, for us the idea of PIP is commendable. We consider that this new application route will be a quicker, more useful way of establishing consent for the principle of small schemes, without the expense of an outline planning application, or the uncertainty of a pre-application response from officers which is not binding and is subject to change.

As the proverb goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ve decided to try the PIP route to planning permission, and hope our sentiment holds true.

Dean Williamson

Dean Williamson MRICS