Should Greater Manchester be squeezing the PIPs a bit harder to deliver new homes?


Brownfield registers allowing Planning Permission in Principle came into force at the end of 2017, but not a single site across Greater Manchester will benefit from the new rules. Is this a huge missed opportunity for Greater Manchester?

Brownfield Registers and Permission in Principle

Brownfield development is often proclaimed to be the solution to England’s housing crisis. Nationally, the Government’s ambitions are to ensure that 90% of suitable brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020.

To encourage delivery, Local Planning Authorities in England are now required to prepare, maintain and publish registers of previously developed (brownfield) land, to be updated at least annually. LPAs will be able to trigger a grant of permission in principle for residential development for sites in their registers where they follow the required procedures.

Registers will be in two parts:

  • Part 1 will comprise all brownfield sites appropriate for residential development; and,
  • Part 2 – when a local planning authority enters a site in Part 2 of a brownfield land register that will trigger the grant of permission in principle( PIP).

If the authority considers that permission in principle should be granted for a site it should enter that site in Part 2 of their register. However, a review of the 10 Greater Manchester Authorities’ Registers indicates that to date none have included any sites within Part 2.

Why Are Councils Not Supporting PIP?

Local Authorities are under increasing pressure to deliver housing, so why is there an apparent reluctance to grant permission in principle? Factors include:

  • Unlike Part 1, there is no requirement for LPA’s to include sites within Part 2 of their registers;
  • Reduced planning fee income;
  • Resourcing – Local Authorities are already severely stretched;
  • Consultation requirements;
  • Perceived loss of control?
  • Lack of developer appetite. The procedures are new, and many developers prefer the comfort of familiar outline planning procedures;
  • Timing – fee regulations for developer applications for PIP have only come into force this week; and,
  • Uncertainty regarding Technical Details Consent.

Clearly, it is important that brownfield land is used where it is suitable for housing, and where it can be viably developed. However, brownfield capacity is not always concentrated in locations with the highest levels of housing need. PIP will not remove the constraints that often prevent brownfield sites coming forward.

What about GMSF? Could PIP make a difference?

The early indications Local Planning Authorities across Greater Manchester and beyond are at this stage seemingly reluctant to utilise this new tool to incentivise brownfield development. Most Brownfield Land Registers largely identify age old dormant sites, publicly controlled, already allocated and those already with planning permission; and as noted, no sites yet in Part 2.

However, PIP could yet be an important means to provide certainty for developers and incentivise brownfield development if it is pro-actively used in the right way. The development industry therefore also needs to come forward with proposals for PIP sites.

Greater Manchester is not alone in not yet fully embracing the potential for PIP. The second round of Registers will be far more telling. For the time being, an early opportunity has been missed to get behind an initiative that could have helped to provide momentum to a ‘radically different’ approach to delivering new housing, which many feel must be in tandem with a selective review of the green belt, to deliver the homes that Greater Manchester needs.

For more information, contact:

Trevor Adey, planning director: 0161 277 7289

Alun Davies, senior planner: 0161 602 8664

Your Comments

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Superb article, Alun. Insightful.

By Emily Roberts

Interesting article, brownfield registers are one thing but as article alludes to a lot are dormant sites- the reason for this in a lot of cases- there simply isn’t the latent demand (from end house purchaser and therefore housebuilder) to live in these places to overcome various viability constraints, housebuilders will build what the house purchasing end consumer wants

By Another interested observer

Very interesting article Alun. I shall circulate this.

By Simon Matley

A interesting article but one which fails to grasp the real nettle and the real challenge. Is it the planning process that is really holding up significant amounts of brownfield development? Many would argue not: viability is the key issue along with lack of market demand and the unwillingness of builders to build in areas where perhaps many would choose not to live. It is therefore no surprise that many sites have been around since NLUD days, the last failed experiment in attempting to get developers interested in sites. Coupled with lack of regulations about preparing registers till very late in the day, all the costs falling on councils, no information about how detailed consent would work and onerous requirements to consult are all factors which push authorities away from spending much of their already very stretched resources on PIP. Introducing PIP on every site will not make unviable sites viable so why should councils bear the cost? Of course we all know that introduction of registers was a cynical attempt by the then DCLG to attempt to divert attention away from the fact that greenfield and Green Belt development has accelerated directly as a result of national policy. A naïve and ill-thought through approach that in reality is not likely to result in significantly more housing, only time will tell.

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