Planning process have been disrupted during the Coronavirus stay-at-home measures. While many council are working to deliver a limited service, with staff operating from home, site visits and face-to-face meetings/council meeting are no longer possible.
Reminder: planning is devolved, so make sure you are looking at the national guidance for your country within the UK, as they will differ in their approach.
On 16 March the Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick stated that he was looking into whether legislation could be passed to allow council meetings to be held virtually, as opposed to in person. On 3 April new powers were granted temporarily to allow just that, enabling remote meeting to take place, with the public still be able to access them, also remotely.
The Planning Portal should always be the first point of contact for up-to-date information, together with Gov.uk for the latest updates on what is and isn’t permissible, and how to stay safe if you are working. The Planning Portal has a Business Continuity Statement that is being updated as the situation evolves. Keep an eye on its blog site for useful insight and updates.
The Planning Inspectorate has also issued updated guidance (updated 25 March) introducing stricter controls, with an end to site visits, and no staff at the Bristol or Cardiff offices until further notice, meaning that no hard applications should be posted. All new applications should use the online process.
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors are also both offering updates and advice on their members activities during the process. Naturally, many professional training, conferences and awards events have been postponed, so again check before making any plans for the latest updates.
The RTPI recently broadcast the latest around planning (6 April) bringing updates from all four countries in the UK on Youtube.
Legal website Lexology has pulled together a series of articles about planning in the current situation, with contributors providing updates and insight into the changing process.
The information brings helpful updates for anyone involved in planning, such as Shoosmiths account of legal issues that have arisen around planning. This includes updates on pre-commencement of development conditions, planning application submissions and issues for councils and committee meetings.
On the 20 April the Law Society wrote to government with a list of planning requirements that needed clarifying around operational matters to do with legal elements around planning. These included a host of detailed measures, including guidance around remote working for councils and legal deadlines, such as determination periods, expiration for permissions, section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy timings.
Interestingly, the letter concludes with a call on government to embrace this period of change, and consider implementing some of the amendments to give greater flexibility on a more permanent basis.
If you are working during the crisis and want information on self building, visit the Self Build Portal for the latest updates for working on site.
The Self Build Portal also has updates on the rescheduling of the main homebuilding shows.