The Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain, has written to all chief planning officers (24th March 2020) suggesting how the planning system can continue during the coronavirus crisis.
He has asked that planners: “Be practical, be pragmatic and let’s plan for the recovery.”
In summary the key points are as follows;
- Councils have been asked to take innovative approaches during this time, and to explore the opportunities that technology offers to ensure discussions and consultations can continue.
- Councils have been encouraged to delegate committee decisions where possible.
- The government will introduce legislation to allow Council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period, and it is expected this will extend to planning committees.
- It is recognised that local planning authorities may have difficulty in considering permitted development prior approval applications within the deemed consent period. Councils are advised that it is important to prioritise these applications to ensure that important economic activity can continue. However, if necessary, it is possible to seek to agree an extended approval date with the applicant. If an agreement cannot be reached, the Local Planning Authority can consider whether they should refuse the application if it cannot be given the requisite attention.
- The letter reiterates guidance given under a Written Ministerial Statement (13th March), which urges local authorities to apply pragmatism to the enforcement relating to food and other essential deliveries and also to the enforcement of other planning conditions which could hinder an effective response.
- The Planning Inspectorate has issued full guidance on how it will continue during this time.
- Local Planning Authorities have been encouraged to carry on with the plan making process, accepting that some amendments may be needed for timetables.
- Neighbourhood Plan Referendums are allowed to be postponed under The Coronavirus Bill which contained provisions to enable the postponement of electoral events.
We anticipate that further guidance is likely to follow and that Local Planning Authorities continue to set out and review their ongoing working practices during this time.