Planning & COVID-19

We have already published a blog and updated our website on this matter and the planning industries responses to the current crisis and in those articles we said how quickly things were changing. The planning industry is proving to be agile and responsive.

I was due to have a telephone conference with a barrister on Thursday last week, but it had to be changed at short notice due to the fact that the High Court had sprung on him an emergency hearing for an injunction at very short notice which needed to be conducted by telephone, hence I had the opportunity to write another brief blog on how the system is responding.

  • The government has now issued regulations for English local planning authorities to hold virtual public meetings, by phone or video link or other technological means during the current lockdown.
  • In England and Wales, separate legislation has been introduced for temporary Permitted Development Rights which will allow local authorities or health service bodies in England (and in Wales the NHS or any developer acting on its behalf) to use their buildings for public health emergency purposes without seeking Planning Permission during the crisis caused by the pandemic. This different wording and criteria in both sets of regulations highlights the continued divergences between the English and Welsh Planning systems.
  • One planning committee, in Waltham Forest, has already granted Planning Permission for a major - 750 home – residential development scheme at a virtual planning meeting. With such a large development it is possible that some of those who might otherwise have wished to object to such development may feel aggrieved at the mode of determination. They may feel that the Council’s process is undemocratic, although there is a counterargument to be put that such virtual meetings might also allow people to attend remotely to observe and possibly participate in proceedings when previously they might have been at work or otherwise unable to attend in person.

Generally speaking, the planning market, which tends to be ancillary to the property industry, seems to be holding up quite well with the current arrangements which are being put in place. The Planning Portal has introduced a COVID-19 business continuity plan to ensure it can maintain 'operations, service and support functions'. This goes hand in hand with ongoing government guidance. We are also starting to wonder how councils and developers will address the impact of delay on projects, which will necessitate flexibility on both sides, possible variation of conditions and planning obligations, as well as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regulations, but that’s a blog for another day.

We will continue to provide brief updates for clients as developments like this emerge, as they undoubtedly will in the coming days and weeks, but in the meantime please let us know if there is anything we can do to assist you or provide clarification on how you can participate and respond to planning issues.