The bill contains measures to allow the automatic extensions of planning permissions that have lapsed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Clauses 17 to 19 of the bill make provision to allow the commencement period for certain unimplemented planning permissions and listed building consents to be extended. The measures allow permissions for development which has already received the grant of planning permission or listed building consent and would lapse between 23 March and 31 December 2020 to be extended until 1 April 2021. The measures would come into force 28 days after the act is passed.
Planning permissions that have already lapsed before the provisions come into force will be subject to an additional environmental approval by the local council before the automatic extension can take effect. The explanatory notes say the local planning authority "must issue a decision to grant or refuse additional environmental approval within 28 days, or such longer period agreed in writing between the local planning authority and applicant (such longer period not to exceed an additional 21 days). If the local planning authority does not issue a decision within the 28-day period (or as extended), it is deemed to have granted additional environmental approval".
The bill includes measures to allow inspectors to simultaneously use written representations, hearings and inquiries when deciding a planning appeal. The bill's notes say the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) will be provided "with the flexibility to use more than one procedure type when dealing with a planning appeal (local inquiry, hearing, and/or written representations), enabling appeals to progress at a faster pace". The amendments to section 319A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 are permanent and "will provide ongoing efficiencies" to the work of PINS, the notes add. This measure would be implemented as soon as the legislation is passed.
The legislation includes temporary measures to fast-track applications from developers to request changes to planning conditions to allow building site working hours to be extended. "This is to ensure that, where appropriate, planning conditions are not a barrier to allowing developers the flexibility necessary to facilitate the safe operation of construction sites during the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and to proceed at pace with work otherwise delayed as a result of Covid-19," the bill's explanatory notes say. Under the measures, local authorities would have 14 days to determine applications for such extensions, after which time they would be deemed to be approved. The measures would come into force six days after the act is passed.
Draft planning guidance on the extension of site working hours says that local planning authorities "should not refuse applications to extend working hours until 9pm, Monday to Saturday without very compelling reasons". It adds that, in some cases, "such as in areas without residential properties, extending working hours beyond this, including allowing 24-hour working where appropriate, may be justified".
The bill temporarily removes requirements for the mayor of London to make the London Plan available for physical inspection and to provide hard copies on request. Draft planning guidance on the publication of the London Plan documents says the document "must be available for electronic inspection in a reasonably convenient way".
The bill includes measures to make it "easier for premises in England serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licensing". The notes say that obtaining consent from local councils for the placement of furniture such as tables and chairs on the pavement outside their premises "can be costly and time-consuming". The bill includes temporary measures to "place a cap on the application fee for businesses, enforcement and revocation powers so councils can protect public safety and amenity, and introduces a new 14 day determination period, ensuring that businesses can obtain licenses in a timely and cost effective manner aiding to their financial recovery", the explanatory notes say. The measures extend to 30 September 2021 and would be introduced the day the bill becomes law.
Planning changes will keep the system in line with the new licensing rules. A draft guidance document on the pavement licenses measures says that once a licence is granted, "or deemed to be granted, the applicant will also benefit from deemed planning permission to use the land for anything done pursuant to the licence while the licence is valid".
Date: June 2020 Date of Bill
Author: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy