Fringe Box



Letter: Beware of ‘Planning in Principle’

Published on: 24 May, 2016
Updated on: 24 May, 2016

Housing and Planning ActFrom Adrian Atkinson

What scares me about the vote tonight is that probably very few of the councillors might be aware of the details in the new Housing and Planning Act 2016 which was published today and became law on the 12th May, I believe.

There is one clause which is a real danger for the way that this plan is being pitched to councillors and the public. It is within Section 150, “Permission in principle for development of land”.

This was going to be reserved only for recognised brownfield sites but now covers any site allocated by a planning process (Local or Neighbourhood plan) and adopted as part of a plan, including green field.

emails letterThe aim is to give up-front certainty that the fundamental principles are acceptable before developers need to get into costly, technical matters. It will also ensure that the principle of development (such as land use, location, and amount of development) only needs to be established once in the process.

Technical issues are looked at later and include what the buildings will look like, layout etc (like the old reserved matters).

“Permission in Principle” must be followed by an application to agree the technical details of the scheme before the applicant can regard full planning permission to have been granted and start work on site.  However, the detail of “technical details” has not been clarified and will be defined in secondary legislation.

According to a parliamentary “policy fact sheet”: “The government will be discussing the detailed process throughout the Bill to inform subsequent secondary legislation. This will include a consultation on the technical details in due course. The Government is open to any discussions with Members who have an interest in the detailed process.”

So if a site is suggested in the local plan for 2,100 houses, a school, factory, warehouses etc and that plan is adopted, the site will have “Permission in Principle” to be developed to that extent and uses.  There will be no going back.

As we stand now, we have absolutely no idea what technical details the local authority planning committee can consider when the application is finally lodged and what they can do about deciding whether it can go ahead or not.  This level of detail is still to be discussed and decided sometime in the future.

Lead members on the council and the planning department are saying the controversial sites being put forward in the local plan still have to go through normal planning application process, so we need not worry, by putting them in the local plan we are not granting them planning permission.

That view should not be accepted as correct. Subsequent process and decision making powers will be new and yet to be defined.  They will have “Planning in Principle” as defined under Section 150 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

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