The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into immediate effect yesterday, Thursday 26 March. In it, the Planning and Development system is listed as having real potential to be seriously compromised by the impacts of COVID-19.
The Bill is essentially an enabling Act, giving ministers power to make various orders and regulations in the form of Statutory Instruments and to give various ministerial directions. It does not provide direct guidance on the planning system.
However, the Bill’s recognises that the planning system is heavily dependent on the functioning of the planning departments and building control departments of local authorities and that existing Covid 19 response measures on meetings, attendance at work and on social distancing will make it difficult, and in many cases impracticable, for key planning procedural steps to be undertaken effectively. These include pre-app meetings, the finalisation and submission (generally held up by third party reports) of planning applications, consideration and decision-making relating to planning applications, the submission of observations and appeals, and importantly, the implementation of planning permissions (as a result of disruption to construction and site work).
In summary, the Bill gives the Government the necessary tools to allow the introduction of a pause period in the calculation and running of an extremely wide range of time periods and times limits referred in the planning and development legislation. The measure will apply to the core Planning and Development Acts but also to time limits in a series of related regimes such as the Building Control Act 1990, the Derelict Sites Act 1990 and The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 (concerned with the ‘Vacant Site Levy’ system).
Importantly the ‘life’ of a planning permission is covered, and it is therefore expected that there will be guidance emerging about reasonable extensions of time on planning applications that have been approved but not yet implemented.
The act is now law and therefore, we are expecting the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to make an order to bring into effect the parts of the Bill dealing specifically with the planning system. This will provide much greater clarity on a number of issues.
It is not yet clear whether the timeline associated with the completion of Class Q barn conversion will be extended but, given the current direction of travel it is expected that these will also be extended along with many other elements of permitted development rights that are time restricted.
We will keep our readers updated as things progress. If you do have a question relating to a planning application or permitted development, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
In keeping with the latest advice on social distancing our offices in Derby and Sheffield will remain closed until further notice to keep our staff and clients safe. We are still working and can be contacted via email and by telephone at 07969 871264 between 10 & 4 each day.