With a view to supporting builders and developers who have been negatively affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is fast-tracking further changes to the English planning system.
Focused largely on the extension of existing planning permissions, here Suzanne Tucker of FBC Manby Bowdler’s specialist Planning Department, explains what those looking to benefit from this change should be aware of, as well as detailing other adaptions that have been made.
The planning system has gone through numerous adaptations since the lockdown began in March of this year. Arguably the most major of these changes, which is likely to be welcomed by developers, is the extension of expiry dates of existing permissions, which will delay the point at which a wide range of permissions expire until 2021.
In essence, this means that a large number of permissions which would otherwise have expired will be ‘saved’ and estimates suggest that this could positively impact over 400 planning permissions, providing more than 24,000 new homes.
Those permissions which are due to expire between 19 August 2020 and 31 December 2020 will automatically be pushed back until 1 May 2021. Permissions with expiry dates between 23 March 2020 and 19 August 2020 are also restored and the time limit for implementation extended to 1 May 2021, subject to applicants applying to their local council for an environmental approval (confirming that EIA or habitats requirements are met). The council must decide that application within 28 days, failing which their approval is deemed to have been given.
For outline permissions which require approval of reserved matters to be sought prior to a date between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020, there is no requirement to apply for an environmental approval. Instead, the deadline by which reserved matters applications must be made is pushed back until 1 May 2021.
Additionally, all listed building consents with a time limit for implementation between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 will be extended to 1 May 2021.
With a focus for many builders now on making up for time lost during the lockdown, the new legislation also enables conditions regulating construction working hours to be extended. Any builder or developer wishing to benefit from this must make an application to the council for approval for work to take place for a longer period than the already approved hours, or on a day when works have not been previously approved. The application process is fast-tracked so that if the council fails to decide within 14 days, it is deemed to have been approved. However, it is worth noting that this new provision does not apply to permissions for works to an existing dwelling, and (at present) only allows conditions to be amended up to 1 April 2021. The aim here is to enable builders to catch up where the pandemic has caused delays, and to enable staggered start times, thus improving the safety of workers.
These proposed changes will no doubt be welcomed by an industry which has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic. It is hoped that further changes will be introduced, and that the provisions which delay the expiry of permissions will be extended beyond the current period to provide more developers with permissions which would otherwise have expired an opportunity to implement them.