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15 May 2020

Planning applications, publicity requirements and COVID-19

Some welcome regulations with a less catchy title, namely the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure, Listed Buildings and Environmental Impact Assessment) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, came into force yesterday which provide flexibility in publicising applications, including EIA development and listed building consent, as a response to COVID-19. These regulations are only in effect until 31 December 2020.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

Publicity and consultation

Applications should still be publicised so that those with an interest in that application are able to make representations and participate in the decision-making process. The regulations recognise that there are difficulties in complying with the usual publicity requirements as a result of COVID-19 and restrictions on movement and aim to prevent delays to decision-making and development.

If local planning authorities (LPAs) are able to comply with one or more of the requirements to display site notices, serve notices on adjoining owners / occupiers and publish notices in a local newspaper, they should do so.

Where it is not reasonably practicable for LPAs to comply with a requirement because COVID-19 means it is not reasonably practicable to do so, reasonable steps must be taken to inform anyone likely to have an interest in the application of the website where notice can be viewed.

The regulations stipulate that persons likely to have an interest in the application include those who live or work in, or otherwise have a direct connection with the area in which the proposed development is located.

Reasonable steps to be taken by the LPA must be proportionate to the scale and impact of the development. The PPG has been updated to provide guidance as to the reasonable steps LPAs can take, including:

  • council mailing lists;
  • using social media;
  • local online newspapers;
  • issuing a weekly press bulletin; and
  • informing parish / town councils and local community groups by email.

This is not an exhaustive list and LPAs can use other methods which can bring applications to the attention of those likely to have an interest, bearing in mind those that may not have internet access.

Time limits

The minimum period for representations has been increased to 21 days in the case of applications for planning permission (longer if there are public or bank holidays). The time periods for listed building consents and applications involving EIA development have not been changed.

Physical inspection

LPAs have a statutory requirement to place applications for planning permission on the planning register which must be available for inspection. These requirements have been amended as it is not reasonably practicable to do so, but the planning register must be made available online.

These requirements have also been amended in respect of listed building consents and applications for EIA development.

EIA development

There are some more specific requirements for applications for EIA development, which are accompanied by an environmental statement.

The applicant will be responsible for publicising the environmental statement by site and newspaper notices where the environmental statement is submitted after the planning application. If the applicant is unable to do so, then publication can be by electronic means.

If the applicant takes advantage of these amendments when submitting an environmental statement, a certificate must be provided to set out the steps taken to publicise the application and why those steps were reasonable.

If you have any queries in relation to the interpretation or effects of these regulations then please do get in touch.

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