The Town and Country Planning (Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017 and Town and Country Planning (Permission in Principle) Order 2017 have introduced the requirements for Brownfield Registers (Registers) and the new Permission In Principle regime (PIP), and came into force mid-April 2017.

Brownfield Registers

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) are now required to prepare and maintain registers of brownfield land within their jurisdiction, that is suitable for residential development. Once compiled, LPAs are required to review Registers at least once a year. Sites listed in these Registers can be counted towards the LPA’s five year housing supply. LPAs have until the 31 December 2017 to compile their Registers, which the government states to be a ‘realistic timescale’. Given the range of pressures on LPAs, we will have to wait to see how many do meet this deadline.

The stated purpose of Brownfield Registers is to provide up to date, publicly available information on brownfield land that is suitable for housing, irrespective of the planning status of the site. The Regulations set a process for identifying suitable sites, but we await further technical guidance on the format of the Registers. The government intends to publish the guidance this summer. There will be two parts to the Registers: Part 1 will contain the list of brownfield sites; Part 2 of the Register is for sites that the LPA considers should be granted PIP. If the council considers that PIP should be granted for a site, the council is then required to enter that site in Part 2 of the Register. Including a site in Part 1 of the Register does not automatically mean it will be granted PIP.

It is intended that this new regime will encourage further development on previously used land, rather than on greenfield sites.

Permission in Principle

The intention of PIP is to give developers more certainty in respect of the principles of residential development on brownfield sites. Development cannot however commence until technical details consent is obtained. This does (at least in theory) appear to be a positive new approach. The in-principle matters are limited to use, location and amount of development only. The intention is to settle these matters at an early stage in the development process. It is hoped that, for certain sites, this will reduce the need to work through a protracted and costly outline consent/reserved matter process. However, it is not anticipated that it will entirely replace the usual planning process in respect of all brownfield sites. The purpose of PIP is for the developer to incur less cost and time upfront, and to provide the necessary comfort to progress with development proposals knowing that the site has PIP.

As is so often the case, there are exceptions to the new regime. Development which falls within Schedule 1 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2011 has been screened as EIA or where prohibited under habitats protection legislation, cannot obtain PIP.

If the site does obtain PIP, it will be placed on Part 2 of the Register. It will then be for the council to determine the technical details consent application at a later date, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and the development plan policies, as is currently required for all planning applications. Prior to the site being entered on to Part 2 of the Register, there will be a statutory consultation period. Once an application for technical details has been submitted, LPAs will only need to re-consult in cases where they identify a particular need to do so.

The intention is that Brownfield Registers and PIP will speed up development and unlock brownfield sites for housing and as such appears to have been welcomed by developers. Critics are however concerned that since this new regime entails more work for councils, the rate of development may in fact be slower. Its ultimate success will depend on whether LPAs have sufficient funds and resources to compile and maintain the Registers - we await further detailed guidance this summer.