What is an Outline Planning Application?

Planning Consultant - Chris Scott
Hi, I’m Chris,
I hold an MA in Planning and work as a Planning Consultant

Essentially, an outline planning application is submitted to test if the local authority will accept the principle of development. Now recently this has got a bit more confusing as there is now a separate process for ‘Permission in Principle’. Permission in Principle is very similar to an outline application. However, in most cases, submissions are still made in outline. Therefore that’s where this post will focus.

You normally submit an outline application if you think the scheme might be contentious. For instance, does it go against any local or national planning policies? If so you may not want to spend a lot of money on detailed designs for a proposal which you think is likely to be refused. Therefore outline planning applications are a way of ‘testing the waters’.

What sort of development suits an Outline Application?

An example of when to use outline planning applications is for new dwellings. This could be even just a single dwelling. The site may be located outside of a development boundary and in open countryside. It may be located in Green Belt, a Conservation Area or National Park. Listed buildings may be located close by. Under those circumstances, a higher test will need to be passed for development to receive approval. Therefore initially submitting for approval in outline avoids spending time discussing the finer design detail, and focuses on the core planning principles and policies.

New Dwelling Outline Planning Application
When trying to get planning permission for new dwellings an Outline Planning Application can sometimes be an appropriate starting point.

What is included as part of an Outline Application?

If we continue with the example of a single dwelling, you still need to include the basics. This will include a location plan and site plan. A red line is drawn around the intended curtilage of the new dwelling and a blue line around any other land you own. On the outline planning application description title you will state whats in outline and what details you are submitting. In other words, what is up for discussion in that application and what is a reserved matter. We will discuss reserved matters more below.

Example: New Dwelling Submission

A typical description could be, ‘new dwelling with means of access provided, all other matters reserved’. Therefore with that application, you have to provide details on the site entrance to the Highway. The local authority will consult with the highway officer and things like visibility splays and parking will be discussed. Depending on the speed of the road the access joins to, the entrance details required will change accordingly. Sufficient on-site parking is typically space for two cars per dwelling. If the property has good local transport links of buses and trains you may be able to argue a single car parking space or no spaces at all are required.

Parking Space Outline Planning Application
Whether a proposal provides sufficient vehicle parking is a frequent discussion topic on outline planning applications for new dwellings.

Modern planning is about sustainability. Good access to public transport is seen to be more sustainable. That’s why a dwelling in open countryside is seen as less sustainable than a new dwelling within a development boundary of a village or town. If a project has the potential to be judged as unsustainable, an outline application may be a good starting point.

What Happens After Approval of the Outline Planning Application?

Let’s presume you have been successful and received approval for your outline planning application. The next step in the planning application process is a reserved matters application. Within the outline application, you commonly agree on the location of the dwelling, potentially also its footprint and scale. As part of reserved matters, you are then providing more details on the design and materials. You will need to submit detailed elevations and floor plans. The full details required are access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale. Frequently though, access is agreed in the outline planning application. As safe access is such a core principle of good development. However, you are not discussing the principle of a dwelling on the site. The outline application approved the principle of a new dwelling.

Are there any Downsides to Outline Planning Applications?

A  higher overall cost and longer determination period are the two downsides. You could submit all the information in one go with a full planning application. However, you are risking more money upfront on detailed designs if the application fails. A full planning application for a single dwelling costs (as of 2019) £462. An outline planning application is also £462, but you would then need to also submit reserved matters application at another £462. However, the additional application cost if its a more appropriate means to secure approval for a scheme isn’t insignificant.

The biggest impact is on the time of implementing the project. Each outline planning application and reserved matters application will have up to an 8 week determination period. And potentially longer if you agree to give the local authority more time to consider the application. Where a complete full application considering all matters will have a single 8 week determination period. Each project needs to be judged on its own merits and challenges. Reviewing the planning history of the site and other similar local planning applications can also be a good starting point.

Help with Outline Planning Applications

If you have a project which you think may run into planning issues and an outline application may suit drop me a message. I will carry out a quick initial review the site and its location before our free 30 minute phone call. We will then discuss if an outline planning application is the best means to proceed. Please submit your details through the contact form, I look forward to hearing from you 🙂