MHCLG update provides swift response to Covid-19

As planning implications arise as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, the Chief Planner for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed that a practical and pragmatic approach will keep the planning system moving in these unprecedented times.

The MHCLG’s response provides encouraging updates, summarised below, to support homeowners, landowners and business during this time.

Planning Committee Decisions

As much of the UK workforce is now working from home, so too are council staff up and down the country, threatening a delay on decisions for planning permissions. But now, Councils’s are being encouraged to hold committee meetings via video conferencing in order to keep the planning system moving. By being able to continue Committee Meetings throughout the Covid-19 crisis, planning permissions can be granted under delegated authority, which in turns keeps the construction industry moving.

A number of councils have already taken this approach including Luton and The London Borough of Richmond; helping to ensure there aren’t unnecessary delays to planning permissions.

Appeals

Similarly to Committee Meetings, many councils will be looking to hold inquiries and hearings by video conferencing, and reviewing the status of appeals with the potential for downgrading them to a written response.

For information on the how inquiries and hearings will be managed during Covid-19, please visit the Government’s website.

Enforcement

The Chief Planner for MHCLG has called for a pragmatic approach to be assumed with regards to enforcement and has urged councils to use discretion when issuing enforcement notices over the coming months, which relate to breaches in connection with businesses responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Permitted Development Rights

With pubs, restaurants and cafes closing their doors in a bid to fight Covid-19, the government have put new legislation in place to allow those businesses to temporarily offer takeaway food. This move allows businesses greater flexibility in these times. The legislation came into force on 24 March and will last for 12 months.

Note: Any pub, restaurant or cafe with restrictive planning conditions that would prevent operating with takeaway facilities will still need to adhere to these conditions. The new legislation does not override these conditions.

These planning updates were the last changes to be implemented by Chief Planner Steve Quartermaine, as he stepped down from his role at the end of March after 11 years as Chief Planner.