The ‘Permission in Principle’ Only seems to Work for Single Use Zoning

Time to think through the Housing and Planning Bill ‘permission in principle’

Its not like every other zoning and subdivision  system in the world which except in small states and island nations is a municipal level enabling power enabling the planning authority to zone for a use or mix of uses.

No it would be a national development order listing the ‘qualifying documents’ such as local plans and brownfield site lists. Once the qualifying document is adopted etc.  permission in principle is granted then the technical details consent (same as reserved matters) are dealt with.

However the parallel with outline/reserved matters only goes so far.   A typical outline consent allows for a mix of land uses or increasingly a mix within an agreed range.  A local plan might set down policies for that range or it might not.  This is where it gets messy.  Lets say a local plan allocates a site for housing and retail with the intention that the retail is a local parade, but doesn’t set a maximum floorspace or percentage.  As I read the bill there is nothing to stop permission in principle being granted to a mall on that site with a few houses.  This is why it is essential that local plans are very clear on the maximum and minimum range for allowable uses.  If they are not the permission in principle applies to the lot.

It would be better I think to include mix within the technical details consent for a transitional period to prevent every single local plan having to be rewritten to be clearer.  Of course the national development order might apply only to housing, but then the local retail, employment, community facilities etc. may never be built – some form of transitional arrangement seems essential otherwise there will be judicial challenges as to whether housing only would be what the local plan intended.

Update:

The answer to this is in the impact statement.

We expect it will take time for full implementation to occur, as brownfield registers do not currently exist and the measure will apply to site allocations in future plans and not retrospectively. However the total number of developments annually that could benefit from permission in principle will grow as plans and registers come on stream and make site allocations.

This may be the intention but that is not what it says on the face of the bill.  Unless the development order specifically lists plans in draft rather than every local authority – a rather unwieldy development order.  Even so draft plans will need to be reviewed in order to make them clear and where necessary undertake consultation.

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