‘Permission in Principle’: a new route to planning permission for housing-led developments

16 July 2018

Developers are now able to apply to local planning authorities for Permission in Principle (PiP) for small-scale residential schemes. The aim of PiP is to enable developers to establish certainty on the principle of development without having to incur the financial and time costs of a conventional planning application. There is already the option of an Outline planning application but PiP requires less information and has a shorter determination period. Some may feel that the principle of development can already be established with adequate clarity through a pre-application submission or by reference to Local Plan designations and policy. However, the difference is that PiP would result in a formal permission, albeit one dependent on a subsequent application in respect of detail.

In some circumstances PiP may provide a simple route to establishing the principle of small-scale residential development. However, some uncertainty remains. On many sites, it would be difficult to agree the principle and amount of residential development without a fair quantity of supporting information, for example where loss of an existing use needs to be justified, where there are issues around ecology and trees to consider, etc. The formal application requirements for PiP are limited to a site and location plan, application form and ‘particulars specified or referred to in the form’, including any supporting information on  constraints proposed by the applicant. It is not clear how authorities will deal with applications where more information is required to make a decision in principle and as a result, early applications may experience some uncertainties before greater clarity is achieved.

As with all changes to the planning system, PiP will need time to bed in and be tested. The ability to apply for PiP is summarised below and if you require any further information or are considering a PiP route for a site opportunity, please feel free to contact our planning team.


  • Applies to ‘small sites’ of nine residential units or less, with less than 1000sqm of commercial floorspace, and/or on a site of less than 1ha
  • The ‘main purpose’ of the proposals must be housing development
  • Cannot  be used where there is a need for an EIA or habitats assessment
  • Is ‘in principle’ permission for development of land only. If a developer wants to develop a site with PiP, they must make an application for ‘technical details consent’ (TDC) in accordance with the permission in principle.
  • TDC should address all further matters to be considered to enable planning permission, including appearance, access, landscaping, layout, scale etc – there should be no further ‘reserved matters’ (though there can be conditions)
  • A PiP can prescribe:
    • Number of dwellings
    • Non-housing development where this is also described in the entry (eg. could include an element of retail, community or commercial uses)
  • Can also be granted for housing-led changes of use including the conversion of buildings
  • The application fee is £402 per 0.1 hectare
  • The target determination is 5 weeks