Introduced by Government in June 2018, Permission in Principle (PiP) is the first major new type of planning application since outline permission came into use in the 1960s. 

This new planning tool is specifically for minor-scale residential development (up to nine dwellings) to boost housing supply. The aim is to give applicants certainty a site can be developed for housing without having to spend the time or money on making a full or outline planning application.

How does it work?

PiP involves two stages: stage one establishes if a site is suitable in principle for housing-led development (it can be mixed-use); if successful, the applicant will need to follow-up with a stage two ‘technical details consent’ application when design and other matters will be considered.

In assessing a PiP application, the local planning authority (LPA) is only entitled to consider the ‘in principle’ matters of location, land use and amount of development. If PiP is granted, before building work can start a detailed application is required which deals with all other planning matters.

PiP was first introduced to encourage housing on previously developed land through the Brownfield Land Register compiled by LPAs.  Part 1 includes sites categorised as previously developed land suitable for housing-led development. LPAs have the power to progress sites to Part 2, which automatically results in the grant of PiP. 

The concept was subsequently expanded to allow direct applications to the LPA for PiP on greenfield or brownfield land for minor-scale housing-led schemes.

So, what are the pros and cons?

A major plus is the level of information required is minimal – a simple plan identifying the application site and number of proposed homes. The LPA should deliver a decision within five weeks which is quicker than other applications.

The benefit of PiP over pre-application advice is that it provides ‘in principle’ planning consent whereas advice tends to be heavily caveated and ‘without prejudice.’ PiP provides a more certain basis for progressing to a detailed application.

On the downside, this route is only applicable to schemes of less than 10 homes. Other exclusions include land affecting protected habitats. Moreover, in practice there are likely to be limited circumstances when testing the principle of development is beneficial as the detail is often the determining factor and what ultimately determines a site’s value.

LPAs are taking time to get to grips with PiP applications, perhaps partly because they are still very new. There is some ambiguity about the difference between a fundamental matter of principle and technical details and we have found some officers seek to drill into the detail as they are used to doing.

Will it add to housing supply?

Early indications suggest a slow take-up of PiP.  In Pro Vision’s experience, however, there have been circumstances when this new tool has proved very useful. For example, sites on the edge of settlements where housing-led development is logical but local policy is not supportive, perhaps because it is out-of-date.  In such cases, a PiP application enables a ‘planning balance’ argument (an assessment of policy against other material considerations) about the principle of development to be rehearsed with the LPA in advance of committing to the technical details. Alternatively, it may also be useful to test the acceptable density of residential development.

PiP is unlikely to significantly add to housing supply given its limitations to minor-scale development or Brownfield Land Registers. Nevertheless, it is a potentially useful option in certain circumstances, should help more small sites to come forward and is likely to grow in popularity.

If you have any queries or require further information about Permission In Principle, please do get in touch  01794 368 698 or email [email protected]


Disclaimer: This article is a summary and for information only.  It does not purport to explain relevant legislation and guidance in detail.  It does not provide specific advice on any land and should not be relied on to make any investment, property or planning decisions.