Pippedy pippedy PIP

I recently took part in a panel discussion with Planning Futures[1] on the topic of planning for SME builders. Since the 1980s, small housebuilders have significantly declined from more than 12,000 companies in the late 1980s to around 2,500 in 2017[2].

In preparation for the event I researched a national policy introduced to help SME builders through the planning process: permission in principle[3] (PIP).

PIP is an alternative form of planning permission which splits matters of principle from matters of technical detail, and therefore involves two stages. It was introduced in the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, and regulations were put in place in June 2018 along with supporting planning practice guidance.

Local planning authorities (LPAs) can grant PIP upon receipt of a valid application for a ‘housing-led’ development under 10 dwellings, which must include an application form, the fee and a site plan.

For the discussion, I researched the use of PIP across a county council area in the South East and found only a few LPAs have received PIP applications. In one LPA three applications were refused, and in another two applications were awaiting decision and one was granted permission. A few other LPAs had received one application each, but these were also refused.

So, this small case study demonstrates little use by developers and that the policy is not working as well as hoped.

Developers may not be using it as they cannot see the benefit, or they are not aware of it. Also, if it was introduced to help small builders who have been significantly reduced since the 1980s, there is only a small pool of developers available to use it.

PIP will take time to become a familiar type of planning permission but to boost its usage there needs to be more incentive and advertisement to use it in comparison to other routes to permission. For example, LPAs could make better use of providing information (e.g. required surveys, mitigation, etc) on PIP decision notices (as allowed in the guidance) to guide applicants though the technical details application, and LPAs could advertise the benefits (e.g. cost and time savings) of going down the PIP route compared with other forms of permission, such as full or outline.

We’ll be looking into PIP and the issues raised above in more detail over the coming months. Pippedy, pippedy…

[1] http://planningfutures.org/
[2] https://www.hbf.co.uk/news/reversing-the-decline-of-small-housebuilders/
[3] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/permission-in-principle