Publicity and consultation requirements to be eased to help planning system operate during COVID-19

On 13 May the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (“MHCLG”) announced a series of measures to support house building during the COVID-19 pandemic, including flexible working hours to construction sites in order to support social distancing requirements.

· Additional publicity arrangements for planning applications, listed building consent applications and environmental statements for EIA development have been introduced to enable notice of applications to be publicised via social media in the event that the local authority is unable to comply with the obligations for site notices, neighbour notifications or newspaper publicity due to COVID-19.

· Community Infrastructure Levy: In order to help small and medium sized developers (those with a turnover of less than £45m) authorities will have discretionary powers to defer payments, temporarily disapply late payment interest and to return interest already charged where they consider it appropriate to do so. These discretionary powers are temporary and will be removed when the economic situation has recovered.

· New time-limited permitted development rights: Health service bodies and local authorities are able to utilise an emergency permitted development right allowing development /change of use so that property can be used for purposes of preventing an emergency (such as hospitals, health facilities, testing centres, mortuaries, storage and distribution). There is no application process and only notification to the local planning authority is required. This PD right will last until 31 December 2020.

· Validation of applications: Local planning authorities have been encouraging online planning applications to be made during the pandemic, however, arrangements should still be in place to allow paper applications to be validated where necessary. Any urgent COVID-19 related applications for planning permission and associated consents should be prioritised for validation.

· Virtual planning committees: local authorities are now allowed to hold virtual planning meetings up until 7 May 2021 to ensure that planning decisions continue to be made.

· Neighbourhood Plans: There have been changes to the neighbourhood planning process to support local authorities and provide reassurance to communities with neighbourhood plans. These include the cancellation of elections or referendums until 6 May 2021, updated current planning guidance, as well as allowing local authorities to make claims for new burdens grants at an earlier point in the neighbourhood planning process. Further guidance regarding Local Plans, Compulsory Purchase and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects has been set out on the government website.

If you have any questions, please contact me or one of my partners for legal advice.

This article is prepared with the intention of providing general information on the changes in law. Philip Ross Solicitors accept no responsibility for errors it may contain and the coverage of the topic is not comprehensive. You are advised to speak directly to the writer or another partner within this firm within any specific enquiries on the topic addressed.

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Gemma has a broad practice with experience in acquisitions & disposals, landlord and tenant work, secured lending, planning agreements and general commercial property agreements such as overage and option agreements.