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Changes to the planning service during Covid-19 - 19 May 21 Update

Published: 19 May 2021

Planning News Planning news

The government has made it clear that planning should continue where practicable, and we are working hard to provide our normal levels of service with limited office presence. 

Telephoning us

We are currently experiencing high customer demand for our service, and given the current working arrangements to account for the pandemic, we need to prioritise our time efficiently. We are therefore amending our availability by telephone so that we can process planning applications. We are only able to accept calls between 1 pm and 5 pm. Case officers will contact you if there is additional information needed for your application to progress. We would appreciate it if you can keep calls to the department to a minimum and use email to liaise with us regarding progress on cases. Thank you.

Pre-application advice

You must submit sufficient information for us to be able to properly assess the impacts of the proposal, including photographs if you can.  If it is impossible to visit the site, you should know that additional issues could come to light when we see the site during the application process. We will be prioritising planning applications over the provision of pre-application advice, so please be patient.

Submitting a new application

We ask that all applications are submitted online, which you should do via the Planning Portal.  Any applications submitted by hard copy are likely to encounter significant delays in validation due to remote working.  Please submit photographs of the site and views towards neighbouring boundaries to help us assess the impact and add precise dimensions to plans in addition to a scale bar.

Commenting on an application

We ask that all representations are submitted online, which can be done whilst viewing the application on our web page.

Site Visits

Planning Officers are undertaking site visits following Covid secure procedures. We are also using Google maps and Street view and asking applicants to provide photographs of the site and surroundings where possible to enable us to make a full assessment. If we cannot view a site safely, there may be delays in dealing with your application. The case officer will contact you to discuss this. Any site visit that does occur will comply with social distancing guidelines and minimise contact with others. Your case officer will discuss this with you/your agent if this is necessary.


We are not currently holding meetings at the Civic Centre. Site meetings will be at the discretion of the case officer. Any site visit that does occur will comply with social distancing guidelines and minimise contact with others. Your case officer will discuss this with you/your agent if this is necessary.

As an alternative to a meeting, your case officer may choose to discuss your case over the telephone. We can also meet you over Skype or Zoom if required.


To meet publicity requirements, we are currently sending neighbour notification letters. In a small number of cases where legislation requires us to post site notices, we may send the site notice direct to applicants asking them to display it in a publically accessible location and send us a photo of it in situ. It is acceptable to put these on lamp posts or fences, but please do not put them where the public would have to trespass to read them. On 14 May 2020, temporary legislative changes to the publicity requirements were introduced to give local planning authorities the flexibility to take other reasonable steps to publicise applications if they cannot discharge the specific requirements for site notices, neighbour notifications or newspaper publicity. These steps will notify people who are likely to be interested in the application and indicate where further information can be viewed online. These steps can include social media and other electronic communications and must be proportionate to the scale and nature of the proposed development.

The temporary changes concerning the publicity requirements expire on 30 June 2021


In the current climate, assessments of breaches reported will take longer than usual. We may request further information from you to aid in the investigation, such as photographs or measurements. We are carrying out site visits following Covid secure procedures on a case by case basis and depending on the priority and the ability to meet Government Guidance.


Planning committees are held monthly at the Civic Centre in Exeter. You can view a calendar of committee dates here. Arrangements for ensuring that the meetings are Covid-safe are under review, and we will publish further information when it becomes available.

Determining your application

Due to the above restrictions, there may be some delay in determining your application, particularly if we or other consultees cannot visit the site to make an assessment. We will aim to minimise disruption and delay by seeking further information from you, as indicated above.

Thank you for your patience during this difficult time.

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