The Base Guide to Reserved Matters
What are Reserved Matters?
Most commonly used by property developers looking to build new homes and buildings, or those not wanting to submit a ‘full’ planning application from the outset, a reserved matters application puts flesh on the bones of the more basic ‘outline’ approval for a development project. It provides the essential details the council must further approve before the scheme can progress and it is not possible to build a project which has been granted outline planning permission without also gaining a subsequent reserved matters consent. Whilst it sounds like an afterthought, a reserved matters application actually often makes up the bulk of what is required to get a new development built.
Reserved matters planning typically relates to large master planning schemes or urban regeneration projects where the principle of development has been approved by the council at the outline stage, but for which no detail has been provided. Outline applications can be for an individual home or building or for a whole new settlement or estate, and quite simply, as the name implies, the reserved matters are the things that council has not yet been able to consider and will need to see specific details on before a full grant of planning permission is agreed. This also means the detailed scheme for a development with outline permission can still be refused until the council is happy with the reserved matters information submitted (although it is worth noting a refusal can still be appealed).
Why Are Reserved Matters Important?
The reserved matters are important because they control the specific details of a scheme and require a detailed design and accompanying information to be submitted, such as would be provided in any full planning application.
So, what are these reserved matters in planning?
As we have already mentioned, reserved matters are those things that were left out (i.e. reserved) for later consideration at the outline planning application stage. They cover five areas of focus, and a reserved matters planning application must provide details on how the proposed development will take into account and affect the following things:
- Appearance (what the project will look like, how it will affect the place where it will be built)
- Means of access (how the site in question will link up with other roads and routes – whether pedestrian, cycle and vehicular – into, within, and out of the site)
- Landscaping (how the open space and ‘amenity’ of the site and surrounding area will be protected or improved)
- Layout (how the buildings, open spaces and roads/ footways will be laid out in relation to one another); and
- Scale (the size of the development and the buildings within it)
The reserved matters that will need to be addressed in an application will have been stated in the decision notice that was issued when outline planning application was approved. The term “all matters reserved” can sometimes be written on a decision notice to mean that all five of the reserved matters must be covered in any subsequent reserved matters application. Likewise, if the decision notice states something along the lines of “all matters reserved except access” this means that the council is both happy with the principle of the development that has been granted planning permission and it is also content with the arrangements that have already been outlined for access (and therefore the subject of access does need to be addressed in any subsequent reserved matters application). The reserved matters application must also address any conditions that were specified on the approved outline planning permission’s decision notice.
What are the timescales for a reserved matters application?
In general, the reserved matters application timescale requires a RM application to be submitted within three years of a scheme being granted outline planning consent, although some councils limit this to two years, so it is worth checking with your local authority’s planning department or asking your architect or planning consultant about this. If this deadline passes then it’s back to square one and another outline planning application will need to be submitted. It is worth noting that once the reserved matters have been approved, an outline planning permission has a timescale of just two years before it becomes invalid, so it will need to be commenced on site (i.e building must start) within that time period.
Once you have got your head around the meanings of reserved matters and how they work in tandem with outline planning permission, you might wonder why anyone wouldn’t just apply for full planning permission. By its very nature a full planning application involves the submission of a detailed design to the council, often with accompanying consultants’ reports. And of course you can do this, however, the fees involved in submitting a full planning application for a large-scale or potentially contentious development can be significant, and in turn the risks associated with such an approach failing might outweigh any potential subsequent benefits, and could seriously impact one’s pocket if a full planning application is refused.
Do I need an architect for reserved matters?
Applying for outline consent and then having the reserved matters examined at a later date (and ideally approved) provides a more logical, risk averse, budget-aware route for developers to take, preventing the substantial costs associated with a detailed design being incurred before they need to be, and providing greater certainty on the project’s likelihood of success. It also gives the developer a degree of reassurance that the council wants a development to be built on the site you have submitted and they will want to work with you to translate your plans into reality (and also, in turn, achieve their own housing targets!). Normally reserved matters should build upon the parameters agreed by the council at the outline stage, although if these change it is still possible to apply for an amendment to the outline permission before applying for reserved matters.
So the question remains of whether you need an architect for reserved matters, and the answer is most definitely yes – especially one that understands the intricacies of the planning system. A decent architect will develop an electronic model of the proposed scheme that can be manipulated in a multitude of permutations to identify the most appropriate and cost-effective scheme for the site, to maximise your return on investment and thereby ensure that the reserved matters covered by the detailed design and layout will fit in with the existing constraints of the site. The architect you use will also interpret any conditions that might have been added to the outline consent by the council and factor these into the options presented to you, for example what proportion of affordable housing is required in the housing mix, or what percentage of the site’s area should be classed as public open space.
What happens in a reserved matters application?
When the details of the reserved matters application have been agreed with you, your architect will submit it on your behalf to the local authority for their consideration, along with any other required reports from external consultants (for example, a specialist surface water run-off report or an ecological appraisal relating to the site). The application will typically include a variety of site layout and location plans, proposed elevations, house types (if it is a master planning scheme) and other details, together with a planning statement and any accompanying reports that the council will require. Other reports and plans that a council can require to accompany the reserved matters submission include:
- A constraints plan detailing sunpath analysis, prevailing wind direction, topography etc.
- A transport or traffic management plan
- A noise survey
- An arboricultural survey
- A landscape visual impact assessment (LVIA)
- A heritage impact assessment (HIA)
- Statement of community involvement (SCI)
- A BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes report
- A wind and microclimate assessment
- A landscaping plan
Applications for reserved matters can be made all at the same time or separately, and further applications can also be made if details of the scheme change. The fees for reserved matters planning applications are set by the government and are advertised on the planning portal (www.planningportal.co.uk) . Currently, there is a fee of £462 per house, up to fifty houses, and if the development involves a number of houses greater than this the fee is £22,859 plus £138 for each additional house, up to a maximum of £300,000.
In terms of how long a reserved matters application takes to be determined, it depends on the size of the development. For minor developments a decision should be reached by the local authority within eight weeks of the application being deemed valid, whereas for larger, major developments the timescale can be up to 13 weeks.
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