RTPI, RICS and RIBA urge PM to relax application time limits to ease coronavirus impact

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has joined other built environment professional bodies to ask the government to introduce a “temporary relaxation" of application time limits, to ease information requirements sought from planning officers and to provide support for consultancies in order to help the sector deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Planning: call for time limits on applications to be temporarily lifted
Planning: call for time limits on applications to be temporarily lifted

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the RTPI, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), offer their help "in this time of national emergency" but also "seek government support for the UK's construction and infrastructure sectors."

Among a series of measures sought from the government, including financial support for planning consultancy firms, the letter requests a "temporary relaxation of time limits for planning applications to allow local authorities to prioritise cases to reflect health and safety considerations and the nature of requests".

A spokesman for RICS confirmed that this referred to the statutory period for considering planning applications.

It also sought "waivers to allow the deferral of requirements for information if planning officers judge a request to be of low or no impact", and "greater flexibility around the operation and submission of evidence to planning committees".

The letter says the property sector is "straining under the pressure of the coronavirus" with "effects not seen since the financial crash in 2007".

Consequently, to help firms cope, it asks the Prime Minister to implement meaures that would ensure "thousands of surveyors, architects and planners can continue to work".

According to a joint statement from the RICS, RTPI and RIBA, these include:

  • Seeking the introduction of emergency loan funding for all firms in the build environment sector;
  • ‘Fiscal support’ to help consultancy firms invest in work from home technology;
  • Support for lost wages of employees now on reduced time or who face being made temporarily redundant.

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said: “Town planners stand ready with all built environment professionals to do what we can to help mitigate this pandemic, and help our country get back to social normality and economic productivity afterwards”

Alan Vallance, chief executive of the RIBA, said: “This is a critical time for the built environment.

“Without financial measures to help preserve cash flow and clarity on how the planning system and development control systems will continue to operate, our sector remains at risk."

Matthew Howell, the RICS' UK managing director, said: “Whether you’re a chartered surveyor, architect or town planner, the growing coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest threats to the property industry since the financial crash, and we need serious action now to prevent job losses and businesses shutting down."

The RTPI has also invited planners to come forward with suggestions on how the planning system can help with the effort to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

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