The market is saturated. Profitable land is hard to come by. Budgets are tight. And there’s no guarantee of success. Once you’ve purchased the land, everything depends on the planning permission application. Prior to approval, your project is hypothetical. The thousands of pounds you’ve poured into your passion project – the blood, sweat and tears – could all be for nought if the local planning authority rejects your application. If you succeed, the world is your oyster. If you fail, your investment could flop and it’s back to square one. So how do you increase your chances of success? Permission in Principle (PIP) might be one answer.
PIP is a new route for obtaining planning permission that went into effect on 1st June 2018. It may not be right for every project, but it is definitely something to consider as you seek optimal solutions to your development woes. In this article, we’ll outline the fundamentals of PIP: what it is, why you need it and how to get it.
Essentially, the PIP is designed to increase the efficiency of the planning process and deliver more homes. Current planning applications require a substantial amount of information up front, even for outline planning permission. The PIP separates the issues of the ‘principle of development’ – such as land use, location and amount of development – from the technical details – such as the appearance of the building and its compliance with local and national policy requirements for amenity and space. Via this route, you only need to establish the principle of development once. After establishing permission in principle, you can then determine the technical details.
Ultimately, the PIP route is an alternative way of obtaining planning permission for housing-led development. This route involves two stages:
So how can a site be established as ‘suitable in principle’? The PIP route is available for any site that might accommodate minor housing-led development, provided the development is not on land that is subject to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Habitats legislation. This means that PIP is subject to location, land use and the amount of development. The proposed development can consist of up to nine homes, with less than 1,000 sqm of commercial floorspace. It can also be on a site of less than one hectare.
According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (2017), non-residential development may also be granted in PIP. These may include such uses as retail, offices, or community spaces. However, housing must occupy the majority of the overall scheme. Additionally, non-housing development should be compatible with the proposed residential development.
After PIP is granted, the proposal will then be assessed in greater detail. This is known as Technical Details Consent (TDC), and it is described in greater detail below.
So why pursue PIP? Why not just dive into a full planning permission application? Here are two important reasons for pursuing this type of planning permission.
To begin with, the PIP route is essentially cheaper for developers who wish to take a chance on smaller sites, which are often riskier. According to the Town and Country (Permission in Principle) Order 2017, the typical cost of preparing and submitting a full planning application is approximately £25,000 for a minor site, including fee costs. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government believe that PIP applications will require only 5% of the resources associated with preparing and submitting a full application, while the technical details consent (TDC) application will require the other 95% of the resources.
The example given is a four dwelling site: a full application for a four dwelling site is currently £1,500. Fees for a PIP application would be £800 while the TDC consent application would be £1,500. If successful, the developer would incur a cost of £800. But if rejected, they would save on average £22,000.
Moreover, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, the PIP will make an important contribution to the delivery of new homes by increasing certainty regarding the suitability of land for less than ten dwellings. It will essentially create a ‘zonal system’. In addition, land identified as suitable for development in plans and registers will receive permission in principle.
When applying for permission in principle, an application must:
The fee for a PIP is £402 per 0.1 of a hectare for the amendment categories, which include: 1) the erection of houses; 2) the erection of buildings (non-residential); and 3) the erection of agricultural buildings. The fee for non-material amendments to a PIP or TDC is £195.
The LPA should make its decision within five weeks of receipt of the application, assuming it is valid and complete. If the planning authority fails to issue a decision within this time period, the applicant may appeal to the Secretary of State – unless, of course, the LPA and the applicant have agreed ahead of time on an extension.
Local authorities can grant permission to a site for PIP upon receipt of a valid application or by entering a site in Part 2 of its brownfield land register, which then triggers a grant of permission in principle for that land, assuming it meets the requirements for minor development and is not subject to EIA or Habitats legislation.
However, PIP cannot be granted on sites that are listed in Part 1 of a brownfield land register (sites regarded as suitable for housing development) and cannot be appealed based on refusal for this reason. Additionally, there are very few brownfield registers that have a Part 2. Once PIP has been granted, it will be in effect for three years and then ‘cease to have effect’.
Following the grant of PIP, the site must then receive a grant of Technical Details Consent before the development can proceed. This is effectively the same as granting planning permission and would include plans and supporting documents such as a Design and Access Statement or any statutory requirements such as conservation or listed building assessments.
Overall, the PIP is not dissimilar to outline planning permission, and the TDC is fundamentally the same as full planning permission.
As the PIP is a new scheme, it seems likely that LPAs will be cautious when deciding a PIP application, and even if a PIP is granted, the TDC may not be. Given these facts, it might be more prudent to simply apply for full planning permission.
Therefore, the PIP is not a short-cut to obtaining planning permission and will not actually save money when taken all the way to the TDC stage. But if you’re a developer looking to reduce the risk associated with planning permission, you should read the guidance on PIP.
For more information about how PIP can influence your development project, contact Urbanist Architecture today. Our multidisciplinary team of architects, designers and planning consultants can help turn your vision into a reality.