13 November 2015
The Housing and Planning Bill proposes to introduce ‘Permission in Principle’ for development, meeting a prescribed description. Full planning permission would then be granted through a ‘Technical Details Consent’, which would be able to impose conditions on development. But the Bill does not set out what a local planning authority (LPA) will be able to consider when looking at such applications. There are already some rumblings in the housebuilding industry as to the potential value of a Permission in Principle, although most developers are cautiously optimistic, pending further detail.
Statutory register of land
Land qualifying for Permission in Principle will be identified in ‘qualifying documents’. Although the Bill does not specifically state that Development Plan Documents are qualifying documents, the intention of the measure is fairly clear. However, the provision will only apply to Development Plans adopted following the commencement of the Bill. Although there is no mention of the long-awaited ‘brownfield land’ register, the introduction of a new statutory register of land will also identify land qualifying for ‘Permission in Principle.’
The Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on 2nd November where the general principles were debated. Current noises indicate that it will come into force around April 2016. In the interim, given the lack of clear and detailed information, matters relating to the potential value of Permission in Principle for the development industry are open to debate.
Less onerous, more certain?
A Permission in Principle will still require an application to be made for ‘planning permission’ for the approval of Technical Details. As there is no guidance on what may be required to support such an application, how onerous will this be?
If an allocation in a Development Plan Document will lead to a Permission in Principle, will the regime actually provide any more certainty for developers than a site allocation in a Development Plan Document. Will the two effectively do the same thing? Some are questioning the potential value of a Permission in Principle if a site allocation is achieved.
Five-year housing land supply
It would be logical if local planning authorities sought to include sites on the ‘brownfield land’ register in their five-year housing land supply figures. However, a blanket inclusion of sites may not necessarily mean that they will fulfil the National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 47 test of being ‘deliverable’. So the validity of their inclusion in such figures is surely up for debate, a point which is already being discussed in the industry.
These questions will no doubt be answered at some point as more meat is put on the bones of the Bill. But it is worth remembering that the planning system is only one element of a wider solution that is needed to deliver more housing nationally. The support of the development industry for the Government’s proposals is crucial to achieving its aspirations and the move toward solving the nation’s housing crisis.
Changes to Permitted Development Rights
The Government announced on 13th October that permitted development rights to allow office to residential conversions will be extended beyond the current end date of 30th May 2016, and made permanent. This is yet another measure in its campaign to provide the new homes the nation needs.
The rights will, in future, allow the demolition of office buildings and new build for residential use. Also to be introduced are new rights that will allow for conversion from light industrial to residential use.
The detail of these changes and limitations/requirements have not yet been published, for example, a definition of what ‘light industrial’ may encompass. But we expect them to be forthcoming in an amendment to the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order 2015. There seems little doubt that these measures could be beneficial in bringing forward additional housing.
For both Permission in Principle and changes to Permitted Development Rights, the devil will be in the detail. We will be keeping a close eye on developments and will keep you posted.
For more information, contact Sarah Butterfield, Associate Director, firstname.lastname@example.org or 0121 456 7444