Outline or Detailed?

Our latest masterplan has just been submitted as part of an outline planning  application for a site in Hertfordshire . The masterplan shows 105 new homes ranging from one bed apartments to four bed homes.


The masterplan was developed in detail through a number of pre-application meetings and it went through several iterations. Although the application is for outline planning, the layout had to be 100% technically accurate and 100% policy compliant. Every parking space is allocated to a dwelling, all the back to back distances are dimensioned and we produced a unit size schedule, a parking schedule and a garden size schedule linked to each dwelling. Every house and apartment block had to be designed in detail in order to create accurate footprints for the layout.  Detailed designs for refuse and cycle storage were also required, in addition to a detailed landscape design and all the other reports and documents required to validate the application.  A few years ago this degree of detail was not normally associated with an outline application, however, in this case the local authority strongly advised us to do so ‘in order to provide reassurance to the planning committee’.


We are finding that this is pretty much standard now for most outline applications of up to approximately 100 residential units. The list of information required is long and the amount of detailed information submitted is huge. The local authorities often don’t have the resources to deal with this volume of information within the timescales they are set.


Since the developer has to pay the consultant team for their work anyway, why not apply for detailed planning consent instead of outline? Well, there are many reasons for this such as timing, market fluctuations, funding, the political landscape, even Brexit………


There are some benefits to the developer in having a very detailed scheme at outline stage – like the planning committee, they have certainty that the scheme ‘works’. The cost of preparing reserved matters applications later on are much reduced, faster and perhaps overall the cost in consultants fees are the same for an outline (such as that described above) followed by reserved matters, as they are for a detailed application.


When considering a larger site of around say, 3000 homes – with associated mixed use, is it more cost effective to go for a full detailed application or to go for outline first?  I believe that it is. I also believe that it is faster. In my experience (which includes working on over 50 large scale residential masterplans over 20 years, in 11 different counties) the outline application, followed by a series of reserved matters for ‘bite sized chunks’ of around 50 dwellings, becomes a very protracted process. This can be further ‘frustrated’ by the requirement for a Design Code. The amount of information required now for an outline application for a strategic site will easily fill three transit vans. It takes an average of two and a half years to produce all this information, and often much , much longer. How can local authorities possibly deal with all of this?


There must be a better way……



Share your thoughts

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.