Planning during Covid-19 measures

As promised, a note regarding the planning system during the Covid-19 outbreak measures which are affecting us all. I have to say when we all went into social distancing, working from home, and businesses closed I thought the planning world would grind to a halt. I am pleased to say I was wrong, and I have been very pleasantly surprised and it is business (almost) as usual.

In the last 10 days or so I have had two applications validated, two approvals granted and have been in active correspondence with case officers. My experience, at a local level so far, has been that planning appears to be running as normally as possible (with some adjustments of course!).

Applications may, of course, take slightly longer depending on staffing. Case officers are carrying out unaccompanied site visits where possible and applicants are asked to inform the Local Planning Authority (LPA) if anyone at the site has been advised to self-isolate, has recently returned from overseas travel to an affected area or if there is any other reason why you think a site visit should not be carried out at this time.  LPAs are deciding, on a case by case basis, whether a site visit is essential and are contacting applicants if they decide that they are unable to visit site and if this affects their ability to determine the application in the normal timescales. In some cases LPAs are asking applicants to provide photographic and/or video evidence as may be necessary to avoid site visits and some are even utilising video calling with applicants. Applicants are also being asked to put up site notices.

Generally, changes to services in response to Covid-19 are on Council websites so you can check what measures are in place. Planning committee meetings have, understandably, been cancelled. In order to ensure planning decisions can continue to be made at the current time LPAs are using emergency decision making powers.

The Planning Inspectorate has instructed all staff not to travel and have cancelled all site visits until further notice. It would appear, however, that varying groups, chambers etc. are working to try and use technology to allow hearings etc. to still go ahead and the Inspectorate are looking at how to advance case work and still achieve open, fair and impartial decisions for all parties in the process. As things look, however, it is inevitable that there will be some delays within the appeal system in the foreseeable future.

Overall, planning is still moving. The planning system, and LPAs are working to overcome the challenges we face, and some pragmatic moves have been made within the system including relaxing rules on delivery timings, allowing some businesses to function temporarily as takeaways etc. which shows the importance of planning within the wider scheme of things.  I do think that if you have a project and wish to progress and can do it, financially, that you should continue as normally as possible within the adapted system as it is there to be used.  It also means that, once restrictions are lifted, you could be ahead and ready with a consent to be implemented as the world starting functioning “normally”.  If you have any projects you wish to discuss, or are wondering how they may progress in this current climate, please get in touch for a chat!

Stay safe, everyone!