Brownfield land register and permission in principle

The Brownfield Land Register Regulations 2017 and Permission in Principle Order 2017 came into force last week on 16 April 2017 and 15 April 2017 respectively.

In short, these offer new routes to securing planning permission. ‘Permission in Principle’ (PiP) is a mechanism for establishing the principle of development for a specific quantum of housing-led development on brownfield land. The detail is then to be agreed via an application for ‘Technical Details Consent’.

The idea behind Permission in Principle is that it will help towards de-risking brownfield sites and give developers more certainty, thus speeding up housing delivery and getting more brownfield sites built on. It could offer a fast-tracked approach to getting permission and meeting housing targets, particularly when allocating and promoting newly emerging sites through the brownfield register, as opposed to other routes, which could be subject to lengthier consultation and examination procedures. The brownfield register also helps to spotlight brownfield development availability, makes site ownership and availability more transparent, and functions as a useful one-stop reference for developers looking for oven-ready sites.

However, local authorities could come to see PiP as another time-consuming, multi-layered obligation when policy is already geared towards prioritising brownfield development. Sites must be suitable for residential development and deliverable and this may mean that a majority of eligible sites will have been picked up elsewhere in development plan documents or through existing permissions. For brownfield sites, there is very often a need for a considerable amount of baseline work on matters such as contamination, ground conditions, ecology etc. It remains to be seen whether resource-strapped local authorities will use it widely when there is no statutory obligation to move sites to part 2 of the register. Granting of Permission in Principle through Development Plan Documents or in Neighbourhood Development Plans and Documents has a reassuring ring of certainty but may not prove to provide significant added certainty compared to the established practice of Local Plan allocations accompanied by provisions on mix of uses, quantum and development parameters, which, in effect establish the principle of development. There will also be an ability for applications for PiP to be submitted to local authorities and regulations on this are to be laid by the summer. Gauging the extent to which this provides a more efficient route to establishing the principle for a certain quantum of development compared to an outline planning application will need to await these regulations.

Some of the finer details of the process are detailed below.

Brownfield Register

– A brownfield register is effectively a database published by a Local Planning Authority of brownfield sites which are believed to be ready for housing-led development in the near future. Authorities must have their brownfield register published by 31st December 2017. They must be published in two parts: Part 1 is for sites that meet the below criteria. Part 2 is sites that are in Part 1 and are also subject to permission in principle

– For sites included in Part 1 they must be all of the following:

    • Previously developed land (same definition as NPPF)
    • 0.25+ hectares or capable of supporting at least 5 dwellings
    • Suitable for residential development
    • Available for residential development
    • Residential development is achievable

– For sites to be ‘available’, their owners must have expressed an intention to sell or develop the land. Alternatively, the local authority can have judged that there are no issues relating to the ownership of the land or other legal impediments (according to publicly available information). For sites to be ‘achievable’, the development must be likely to take place within 15 years, having regard to any information publicly available and any representations received.

– Sites in Part 1 can then be moved on to Part 2 where they will automatically be given Permission in Principle. To be entered onto Part 2, certain publicity, notification and consultation procedures must be undertaken.

– There are provisions for:

    • Exemptions
    • Information which must be included for each entry in the register
    • Public inspection of the register
    • Review and revision of the register

– Before a site can be included in Part 2, the local planning authority must satisfy itself that the scale of residential development proposed would not be caught by the environmental impact assessment regulations – if it does it cannot be included.

– Authorities must make their brownfield register available on their websites.

Permission in Principle (PiP)

– Permission in Principle can be granted through:

    • Sites being placed in Part 2 of the brownfield land register
    • Development Plan Documents (eg. site allocations documents)
    • Neighbourhood Plans
    • Applications made directly to local authorities on unallocated sites – subject to regulations yet to be laid before Parliament

– A PiP can prescribe:

    • Number of dwellings, for housing development
    • Non-housing development where this is also described in the entry (e.g. could include an element of retail, community or commercial uses).

– As such, permission granted by the PIP Order is an ‘in principle’ permission for development of land only. If an applicant wants to develop a PIP site they must make an application for ‘technical details consent’ (TDC) in accordance with the permission in principle. The result would be the grant of full planning permission. TDC should address all further matters to be considered to enable planning permission, including appearance, access, landscaping, layout, scale etc – there should no further ‘reserved matters’ (but there can be conditions).

– Some provisions:

  • The timescales for determination of Technical Details Consent for major applications is 10 weeks, and for non-major applications 5 weeks
  • The prescribed period for a permission in principle granted is 5 years, ie. technical details applications must be made within this period to be valid
  • LPAs must keep a register of all PIPs
  • LPAs can specify when PIPs come into force
  • The Order sets out the specific application requirements for technical details consent
  • Applicants will have a right to appeal outcomes

– Note that Permission in Principle does not prevent applicants from submitting applications for alternative developments.

For further information please get in touch with a member of the Nash Partnership planning team.