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Permission in principle 'won’t speed up' the planning process


Permission in principle (PIP) will not speed up the granting of planning permission and will add further strain to the resources of local planning authorities, Rebecca Daniels, senior associate at law firm K&L Gates told delegates at the recent City Regeneration conference.

The conference, which took place on 24 June, considered the benefits, funding options and risks inherent in delivering sustainable brownfield development.

Discussing the implications of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, Daniels criticised the lack of detail surrounding how the act will actually work in practice.

“The government’s view is that PIP will speed up the planning process by providing certainty at an earlier stage, and so save applicants’ money,” she explained. But with all details except location, use and amount of residential development left to a detailed matters stage, “it seems the permission won’t actually be granted until quite late in the day”.

“We already have outline planning permission, we have designations on local plans… I’m not sure that this [PIP] adds to what we already have, [but] it will increase the workload of local planning authorities,” said Daniels.

Daniels reminded the audience that the government has pledged to get planning permission in place on 90 per cent of brownfield sites, with 73 councils having been given £10,000 by the government to finance land registers in aid of this. But the nature of the land to be documented has not been clarified.

"There is just a provision for a requirement of a register of land to be compiled by local land authorities where the actual type of land and content of the register are being left to secondary legislation. Regulation is going to have to be really clear on the definition of brownfield," she said.

Daniels also raised the issue of the government’s “controversial” intention to open up the planning system to privatisation, which she argued “cuts across the fundamental principle that we have about how we make our decisions about planning” and the logistics of which would need “some serious clarification”.

“Issues will be rife with negotiating the relationship between the private entity processing the application and the local authority who still have involvement,” she said. “Conflicts of interest may arise if planners are working on both sides of the fence, and decision-making will need to be robust to avoid judicial review claims.

“If the concern is that the termination of planning applications is too slow, maybe the simplest solution is to increase the capacity of local planning authorities to make decisions rather than remove it,” she suggested.

Information on the implications of permission in principle for greenfield sites can be read here.

More information on the Housing and Planning Act 2016 can be read here.

More information on the City Regeneration conference can be found here.