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Determining planning applications during the coronavirus crisis

Published: 22 June 2020

Planning News Determining planning applications during the coronavirus crisis

The UK government has introduced temporary planning legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This has resulted in some public concern that developers could take advantage of this situation to push through planning decisions without the usual regard to public consultation and democratic decision-making.

The City Council wishes to be transparent about these changes, and to reassure local residents and businesses that it is committed to public consultation, democratic decision making and protecting local amenity.

New permitted development rights

A new national permitted development right has been introduced to support health service bodies and local authorities’ immediate response to coronavirus. It allows for development by or on behalf of a local authority or health authority body for the purposes of preventing an emergency; reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency; and taking other action in connection with an emergency.

The right enables development including, but not limited to, change of use for existing buildings and new temporary modular buildings. The rights could be suitable to provide permission for a range of uses including use as hospitals, health facilities, testing centres, coroner facilities, mortuaries, additional residential accommodation and storage and distribution, including for community food hubs.

There is no application process, and health service bodies and local authorities who are not the planning authority are required only to notify the local planning authority of the use of the development on a site as soon as practicable after commencing development. The right is in place until 31 December 2020.

The government has made it clear that all pubs, restaurants and cafes should no longer be open for on-site consumption but can remain open to provide a takeaway service.  To support pubs and restaurants and ensure access to food during the emergency period, a new national permitted development right has been introduced to enable pubs, restaurants and cafes to operate temporarily as hot food takeaways.

To give greater flexibility, the right also covers cold and pre-prepared food and allows for takeaway and delivery. The right is time limited to 12 months. Beyond this time, a planning application would be required for continued use as a takeaway.

Relaxations of existing hours restrictions for supermarket deliveries and working on building sites

The government has asked local planning authorities to take a more relaxed approach to enforcing time restrictions on supermarket deliveries and construction work on building sites.

However, the City Council is committed to protecting local amenity, and where it is clear that there is a breach of planning or environmental health legislation and serious harm is being caused to amenity, it will take action to protect local residents.

Changes in procedures for determining planning applications

New legislation also provides for variation of planning consultation procedures and the holding of online planning committee meetings. The City Council wishes to make it clear that it has not changed its publicity requirements for planning applications, which continue to comply with the national statutory requirements in place before the pandemic.

All planning applications which would normally be determined by the City Council’s Planning Committee will continue be determined in in this way, except that for the time being the meetings are being held virtually and broadcast live on Facebook. Public participation in these virtual meetings follows the same procedure as before the pandemic. Local residents and businesses can therefore be assured that the City Council is committed to the same level of public consultation, involvement and transparency as it always has been.

For further information and advice please contact Roger Clotworthy, Assistant Service Lead (Planning).

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