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Reserved Matters planning application – what does it mean?


Reserved matters are an essential part of the planning application process and as a landowner looking to reap the best rewards for your prized asset, gaining a basic understanding of the concept is essential.

For a scheme or building development to go ahead, it’s crucial to meet all reserved matters. And, while this may sound simple, without the right knowledge or guidance, the process can become complicated and time-consuming.

But, if you’re not sure what reserved matters are let alone how to approach them, don’t stress because we’re going to tell you all you need to know to get started.

What are reserved matters in planning permission?

Before we delve any deeper, let’s consider the reserved matters definition:

Reserved matters is a type of planning application that follows an approved outline application.The aim of reserved matters in planning permission is to secure the outstanding details that were not  included within an outline application.

Reserved matters are an essential part of the planning permission process as they will ensure your outline planning permission progresses to full application status so work can officially commence on-site.

Once an outline planning application is approved, a developer has three years to make a resulting reserved matters application. An outline with approved reserved matters permission is valid for an additional two years to start the work.

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What details do reserved matters cover

Reserved matters represent the specific details not covered in an approved outline planning application.Here are the most common details that are considered reserved matters in the planning application process:

  • Access: This reserved matters detail aims to confirm all of the access routes (both vehicular and pedestrian) going into and out of a site. Although it’s possible to reserve this matter, access is a detail that is often secured at outline as it would give the council and any possible end developer or housebuilder certainty when bringing forward proposals. This point is particularly important on larger schemes likely to have a significant impact on the surrounding highways network.
  • Appearance: This factor relates to how the site will look externally. Appearance details include the design of buildings and surrounding green spaces.
  • Landscaping: This reserved matter relates to details concerning screening and hedgerow planting, for instance. This matter is especially important if a landscape impact is identified at the outline stage.
  • Layout: In a planning permission context, this relates to the positions of buildings, green spaces, roads, and any other form of relevant space or infrastructure. Layout also covers their relationship to each other as well as the buildings outside the development.
  • Scale: This detail relates, generally speaking, to the physical size of the proposals in question. For example, this will include the specific dimensions of each building.

To avoid the two-phased process of submitting an outline application and then a reserved matters one, it’s possible to provide all of these details within one ‘full’ application. However, this is most common when the applicant intends to carry the work themselves. 

The benefits of promoting a site with outline planning approval essentially tells a prospective developer or investor that a development will be accepted in principle before they incur any unnecessary costs. Reserved matters are then, most often, secured by a developer, giving them a room to wiggle, making changes to initial suggestions made in an outline application. 

Reserved matters: the length of approval

There are set approval and processing times for reserved matters, but these periods can vary slightly  due to a number of factors. But, as a guide, here are the official guide times for reserved matters approval.

Approval waiting times

Concerning the determination (approval) deadlines for reserved matters applications, here are the guide timeframes:

  • 8 weeks for minor developments
  • 13 weeks for major development

But, as mentioned, these times may vary depending on the amount and complexity of the details to be secured.

Reserved matters validity & expiry times

Once reserved matters are secured, builders have two years to get a project off the ground. But, if you receive planning refusal for any reason and you wish to appeal or reapply, checking the expiry dates on every reserved matter is vital.

Some may expire sooner than others and if you are reapplying, every aspect of your proposal must be valid for success—as such, going through everything with a fine tooth comb before submission is advised.

Final thoughts

Reserved matters applications are straightforward in principle. That said, if logistical roadblocks do crop up, the process can become stressful and time-consuming.

But, with the consultancy of an experienced land expert, you will be able to ensure your land is a profitable success.

We hope this guide to reserved matters in planning permission has proved helpful and for more land-based pearls of wisdom, check out our essential guide to planning permission.

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