A new route for small-scale residential development 

A new consent route has been introduced to enable applications to be made for Permission in Principle (PiP) for small-scale, housing-led development. Legislation for the procedure was first published in the Town and Country Planning (Permission in Principle) (Amendment) Order 2017 and was officially implemented on Friday 1 June 2018. This represents an addition to the existing PiP route in which local authorities grant PiP for housing-led development on previously developed land through brownfield land registers.

Currently, the planning process requires developers to provide a substantial amount of detailed information up-front, resulting in significant costs and lengthy timescales. Whilst outline permissions deliver a level of certainty subject to later agreement of reserved matters, the process requires a high level of clarity on technical issues at an early stage, meaning developers are often unwilling to commit finances/resources in order to achieve certainty that their development will be deemed acceptable.

The Government envisages that introducing a new, simplified route to achieving planning permission will improve the speed and efficiency of both the planning process and the delivery of much-needed housing. This reflects the aims of the Housing White Paper, published back in February 2017, which set out a comprehensive approach to ‘fixing our broken housing market’ by ensuring that the right land is available for homes and delivering housing quickly.

The Process

PiP aims to split the decision-making process into two key stages. The first stage seeks to establish whether a site is suitable, in principle, for residential development, tackling key issues such as land use, location and amount of development. Before full permission is granted and work can start on site, this must be followed by a second stage in which matters of technical detail are put forward and assessed, including detailed design considerations.

Applications for PiP (Stage 1) are made to the relevant local authority who are required to make a decision within five weeks of receiving the planning application, a considerably shorter determination period than that of major development (13 weeks) and other types of development (eight weeks).

The fee charged for a PiP application is £402 per 0.1 hectare of the site area. Once the PiP has been established, developers can then apply to the local authority for technical details consent (TDC) (Stage 2), the fees of which are the same as current fees applicable for full planning applications and reserved matters applications (£462 per new dwellinghouse). TDC must be obtained within three years of receiving the PiP unless a longer or shorter time limit is specified on the decision notice.  The fee for a non-material amendment to a PiP or a TDC is £195.

Developers can only make applications for PiP for small-scale residential-led development. This is defined as development of less than 10 dwellings, buildings with a floorspace of less than 1000 square metres or development carried out on a site of less than 1 hectare.


It remains to be seen how the PiP application process will work in practice. Indeed, there are legitimate concerns that already over-burdened and under-resourced local authorities may struggle to determine PiP and TDC applications effectively and within the required timescales alongside maintaining an up-to-date brownfield land register. This significant change to the planning system represents an opportunity to create a quicker and more efficient planning process, however, as PiP is limited to small-scale developments and contains a number of exemptions, the impact that it is likely to have on the overall delivery of housing could be limited. Furthermore, it will need to work symbiotically alongside the other PiP route (Part 2 of the brownfield land register) in order to ensure successful outcomes for both authorities seeking to ensure an adequate supply of housing land and developers seeking certainty that their site is suitable, in principle, to be developed for housing. 

If you have any queries or require further information about Permission in Principle, please do get in touch.


Alice Henderson
Graduate Planner
0161 835 1333