Hearings and Inquiries
The Planning Inspectorate has stated that hearings and inquiries will not proceed at the present time. It is considering whether to use technology to enable some of the hearings and inquiries to go ahead but will take account of the ability of all parties to utilise such facilities. Some cases may be appropriate for the use of the written representations procedure rather than using a hearing or inquiry but these will be assessed on a case by case basis.
In relation to site visits, the Inspectorate have stated that so long as the Inspector can attend site unaccompanied, these will go ahead.
LPA meetings and decisions
On a more local level, it is highly likely that unless they have already done so, local authorities will be cancelling all public meetings. This obviously includes planning committee meetings at which key decisions, including those for major development sites, are made. It is unclear yet how those decisions are going to be carried forward but there will clearly be some significant delays ahead.
As far as decisions being made by planning officers, many local authorities are undertaking similar precautionary measures in asking their workers to work from home where possible. This may impact on the overall manpower available to the local authorities, but most operate on a fairly paper light basis anyway and will be able to make decisions without the need to attend the offices. If you have any specific queries relating to any applications that remain outstanding, the recommendation is to contact the planning officer or the designated planning support line for that particular local authority.
Updated advice and guidance is being released on a daily basis, so we will attempt to keep you informed as this is disclosed.