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Planning Permission in Principle

Planning permission in principle is a type of application that allows a proposal - a residential development, for example - to be assessed without having to give the details of the layout, design or finish of any buildings.

If granted, it has to be followed with a further application to agree the details of the development (normally within three years), which has to be determined by the council before work can start. 

You can apply for planning permission in principle for most types of development, apart from an application for a change of use, for development in a conservation area or for works affecting a listed building. For these types of application you will need to apply for full planning permission.

Detailed plans are not usually submitted at this stage; a simple red line round the application site is the minimum requirement. Applicants can submit additional information if they wish, and we might ask for more information if we need it to give your application proper consideration - on larger sites this might include a flood risk assessment, a stage one contamination assessment or a habitat assessment. If we do need any additional information, we'll ask you for it within 28 days of receiving your application. 

West Lothian Council encourages the use of processing agreements [63KB] , an agreed framework for processing a planning application. A processing agreement should set out the roles and responsibilities pf all the parties involved in the application process, and can deliver a number of benefits:

  • More effective and earlier engagement of key stakeholders.
  • Clarity early in the process about information requirements and any matters to be addressed by legal agreement;
  • Clearer lines of communication;
  • Greater predictability and certainty over the timing of key stages;
  • Greater transparency in decision making for everyone involved in the process; and
  • Faster decision making through effective project management with a focus on delivery.

What happens when planning permission in principle is granted

A further application (called an application for Matters Specified in Conditions (MSC)) giving details on such matters as the siting and design of any buildings, the accesses and landscaping, will be submitted, normally within three years. Conditions might be attached about contamination, the total numbers of units to be built, or other site specific issues. Work cannot begin on site until an MSC application is submitted and approved. If you have concerns about the proposal, you can submit a representation at either stage in the process - the application for planning permission in principle or the subsequent, more detailed application for Matters Specified by Conditions.