Extensions to planning permissions / consents
The first of which is the desperately awaited extension of planning permissions which lapsed (or are due to lapse) as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued on Monday, 22 June 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed that it will be taking measures to automatically extend the life of planning permissions and listed building consents which would have otherwise lapsed (or will lapse) between 23 March and 31 December 2020. These permissions and consents will be extended until 1 April 2021 in an effort to assist with the delivery of the estimated 25,000 homes which would otherwise have required fresh permission.
This action comes after much lobbying by the development sector and local authorities for the government to do something to assist the reactivation of the construction and development industries and to provide the much needed homes across the country. Several options were proposed to the Ministry by The City of London Law Society in its letter of 15 April, in which it said that an “urgent fix” was required, but the Ministry has still not indicated at this stage how exactly it will provide the changes required to facilitate these measures. What it has indicated, however, is that the planning permissions which have already lapsed before the provisions will come into force will be subject to an additional environmental approval process before the automatic extension takes effect.
Housing & Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP said, “Building the homes the country needs is essential to the mission of this government and is an important part of our plans to recover from the impact of the coronavirus. New laws will enable us to speed up the pace of planning appeals and save hundreds of construction sites from being cancelled before they have a chance to get spades in the ground, helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many others. Taken together, these measures will help to keep workers safe and our economy moving as we work together to bounce back from the pandemic.”
It is anticipated that new primary legislation will be required in order to put in place the measures proposed and we will keep you up to date with developments on this front.
Construction site hours
The second step is in the form of new draft guidance on a temporary, fast track deemed consent route for developers to apply (free of charge) to local planning authorities to vary existing construction site working hours. Consents granted via this route will last until 1 April 2021.
Local authorities have 14 calendar days to consider such applications. Importantly, if the local authority does not determine the application within 14 days (excluding public holidays), the revised working hours are deemed to have been consented to and construction can take place in accordance with these new hours.
Unless there is a compelling reason for them not to, the local authority should not refuse such applications that revise the site hours to 9pm Monday to Saturday in residential areas. In non-residential areas, site hours could even be 24 hour if there is a justified need.
This is clearly going to put local authorities under some pressure to respond quickly to applications without neglecting any of the duties in the environmental legislation as to nuisance from noise, vibration, pollution, dust and light, which are separate from the planning regime.
The new draft guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/construction-working-hours-draft-guidance/draft-guidance-construction-site-hours-deemed-consent
The Business and Planning Bill also proposes a streamlined application process for pavement licenses to allow pubs, restaurants, cafes, snack bars, coffee shops and ice-cream parlours to apply for permission to install removable furniture on certain highways adjacent to their premises in order to boost the summer ‘al fresco’ dining/drinking market. Given the current social distancing measures in place, this is likely to be crucial in facilitating the viable operation of some smaller businesses. Licenses will last for a year, but not beyond 30 September 2021.
The fee for applications for pavement licenses is to be capped at £100 and again, importantly, if the local authority does not determine the application before the end of the determination period (5 working days beginning with the first day after the public consultation period (excluding public holidays), the license is deemed to have been granted and the business can place the proposed furniture within the area identified in its application.
Robert Jenrick said, “I know we all look forward to seeing our pubs, cafes and restaurants open their doors again and I’m determined to give them a helping hand to get back on their feet and their staff back to work safely”
The new draft guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pavement-licences-draft-guidance/draft-guidance-pavement-licences-outdoor-seating-proposal
I think I speak for us all when I say this is most welcome news (for all sectors!)