We are all working effectively and efficiently at home, and have access to all our files, processes and software as normal. We have been successfully using telephone conference and video conference facilities already – either our own via Zoom Pro – or other parties' software through their invitations – and can continue to do so. We have business resilience processes in place, including in terms of staff sickness, and so we do not envisage any disruption to our work capabilities.
As a team we are liaising with the local planning authorities we regularly interact with to understand their business continuity measures and are keeping abreast of the latest information and advice from the Government, the Planning Inspectorate and industry to identify the immediate responses being developed and to comprehend some of the longer term implications of the pandemic so that we assist clients in their abilities to recover from its effects. On this basis we thought it would update you on some of the news so far:
Temporary Permitted Development Rights for Pubs, Restaurants and Cafes
To support pubs and restaurants and ensure access to food during the emergency period, the Government has introduced a new time-limited permitted development right to allow the temporary change of use of a pub (A4 - drinking establishment) and restaurant (A3 – restaurants and cafes) to a hot-food take away for a period of up to 12 months only. The pub, restaurant or café will remain in its current use class during this period and beyond this time, a planning application would be required for continued use as a takeaway. Unfortunately, this provision does not apply to pubs, restaurants or cafes that are subject to planning conditions restricting home delivery – although there have been calls for this to be amended. If you or any of your tenants would be interested to know more please let us know.
Local Planning Authorities & Impacts on Timescales
The latest Planning Update letter from the Chief Planning Officer at MHCLG asks local authorities to 'continue to provide the best service possible in these stretching times and prioritise decision-making to ensure the planning system continues to function, especially where this will support the local economy' and to 'be pragmatic and continue work proactively with applicants and others, where necessary agreeing extended periods for making decisions'. The Government has now introduced legislation to allow council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period, and councils are also encouraged to consider delegating committee decisions where appropriate.
We are fully aware that the impact of Covid-19 on development programmes means that some developers may not be able to implement permissions, submit reserved matters applications in time or meet time limited S106 obligations or affordable housing review mechanisms. Some permissions can also include planning conditions which require studies or assessments to be undertaken in prescriptive timeframes that may now no longer be feasible. As a result there are various calls from within the industry for a variety of short-term measures such as extending all planning permission time limits. If this is a potential issue for you then please let me know and we can both advise and keep you updated.
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has published guidance on how it will continue to carry out its duties and will keep its guidance under review. Some site visits, hearings, inquiries and events will have to be cancelled or postponed and some hearings are now being changed to written representations. As for Local Plan hearings, at present, PINS have confirmed these cannot currently take place and are not yet able to confirm when they may be able to resume. However, PINS is considering alternative arrangements where possible (including a plan put forward by barristers) and are keeping their guidance under review so it is worth checking their website regularly for updates.
Impact on 5 Year Housing Land Supply
One of the longer term impacts will clearly be the reduction in housing delivery with some local authorities already expressing a desire to be released from housing delivery test rules as the slowdown in construction could make them vulnerable to the National Planning Policy Framework's presumption in favour of sustainable development at appeal. The impact of the slowdown on the calculation of 5 year housing land supply will have a knock on effect for future years as it is purely based on a reporting of the figures. Whilst these issues will no doubt be discussed further one thing will remain – the imperative to further boost housing supply and the economy.
I hope that this message is of use to you – we are available to talk via email, or video conference and able to attend virtual meetings. If you think there are further ways in which we and the CarneySweeney Planning team can further support your business then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
As ever we are monitoring the situation and will provide updates as matters progress.
Paula and Ged