Garry Thomas

New ‘PIP’ planning method to secure permission for up to nine dwellings

Top Herefordshire architect, Garry Thomas, brings more insight into this new process and how it can support smaller scale developers.

Developers may find this new process, introduced by the government this summer, useful, where applications for permission in principle (PIP) for small housing developments can be made to local authorities in England to speed up planning.

The scope of PIP is limited to location, land-use and the amount of development. Unless sites are subject to Environment Impact Assessment (EIAs) or habitats legislation, any site can be considered for PIP for minor-developments of up to nine homes and under 1000 sqm of commercial-floorspace on a site of less than one hectare. Regardless of the mix the main purpose of the development must be housing. Once PIP has been established, full planning permission requires only ‘technical details’ consent (TDC).

PIP was conceived as a cheap and simple means for landowners and developers to establish whether a site is regarded as suitable for housing, similar to pre-application advice but with a ‘binding’ outcome. In addition, Local Authorities in England have been able to assign PIP to sites in their 2017 brownfield-registers. The registers come in two parts: part one for brownfield-sites regarded as suitable for housing development, part two with sites already given PIP and requiring only TDC. There is also a plan to identify sites with PIP in ‘local’ and ‘neighbourhood’ plans in the future.

So will PIP speed up or slow down the planning system?

PIP appears similar to ‘outline planning’ and technical detail consent is not fundamentally different from ‘detailed planning’. PIP could work well where communities themselves want to bring forward housing development. However, from experience local parishes resist housing developments and individual letter-writers will also seek to prevent.

Local Authorities will still moderate the amount of development allowed when determining a PIP application, so developers might ask ‘what’s the point, we may as well just go for planning permission’. Obtaining ‘technical details consent’ after PIP could prove more difficult than ‘reserved matters consent’ following the granting of outline permission, as the new process gives planners a lot of discretion. There is also a risk that the amount of information to be submitted could prove more onerous compared to normal procedures.

Developers who do get consent via PIP may well, in the following process, opt for a full planning application having established the ‘binding’ principle of development. If developers embrace PIP it could be seen as a short-cut and, whilst it’s ‘new’, it may progress positively as Local Authorities trial the process and if you are prepared to take it all the way with ‘technical details’ consent.

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