Government announces fast-track route for builders to request working hours planning changes

The government has announced new measures to fast-track applications from developers to request changes to councils' planning restrictions that would allow building site working hours to be extended.

A construction site in central London. Pic: Getty Images
A construction site in central London. Pic: Getty Images

In a statement issued today, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced measures to "help builders to quickly agree more flexible construction site working hours with their local council for a temporary period".

This "will make it easier to follow public health guidance onsite and by staggering builders' arrival times, public transport will be less busy and the risk of infection will be reduced", the statement said.

Under the measures, the government will "temporarily introduce a new fast track route to apply for changes to planning restrictions on construction hours to allow longer hours to support safe construction working", the statement added.

Authorities would have 14 days to determine applications, after which time they would be deemed to be approved.

The statement added that the new route "would only enable requests to extend hours up to 1 April 2021, and would not apply to construction work on individual houses".

In May, the MHCLG announced that it would allow builders to request changes to planning conditions with their local council to agree more flexible construction site working hours.

A written ministerial statement (WMS) from housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that councils would need "compelling" reasons not to comply with requests to allow the extension of working hours on building sites to help social distancing.

The WMS instructed councils to take a positive approach to such requests, for instance by not enforcing, or amending, planning conditions that restrict working hours.

Today's MHCLG statement also included proposals that would "temporarily enable the mayor of London to operate digitally by removing [a] requirement for a Spatial Development Strategy (London Plan) to be available for physical inspection or hard copies to be available on request".

It said that this "would help to address practical issues arising from social distancing and provide the statutory framework for the mayor to publish a new SDS, reducing the administrative burden and helping to unblock the progress of plan making".

When asked by Planning for details on when the measures announced in the statement would come into effect, a spokeswoman for the MHCLG said that further details "will be set out in due course".

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