• This article highlights the latest updates in legislation relevant to town and country planning law now in effect in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

    Planning law update: Permitted development rights

    With effect from 9 April new permitted development rights have been given to local authorities and health service bodies which enable them to carry out emergency development on land owned, leased, occupied or maintained by them.

    The rights will enable them to carry out development for the purpose of:

    • preventing an emergency
    • reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency
    • taking other action in connection with an emergency.

    In this context, an “emergency” means an event or situation in the UK which threatens serious damage to human welfare. This will only be the case if it involves, causes or may cause:

    • loss of human life
    • human illness or injury
    • homelessness
    • damage to property
    • disruption of a supply of money, food, water, energy, or fuel
    • disruption of a system of communication
    • disruption of facilities for transport
    • disruption of services relating to health.

    These are temporary rights and any use of land for these purposes must cease on or before 31 December 2020.

    Virtual planning committees

    The regulations which enable virtual planning committee meetings to take place are now in force.  They are known as the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 and were made under s.78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

    These regulations allow for remote attendance by members of the planning committee provided that the members can hear, and where practicable see, and be so heard and, where practicable, be seen by, the other elected members in attendance as well as members of the public.

    Ultimately it will enable planning committees to be held remotely. However, it is for each local authority to put in place the necessary IT and any changes to existing standing orders and rules of procedure to bring this into effect.

    Local authorities will also need to ensure that there is effective provision for voting and access to documents for members of the committee, as well as remote access for the public and the press.

    Neighbourhood planning referendums delayed

    The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published new guidance regarding neighbourhood planning in response to the coronavirus.

    All neighbourhood planning referendums that were meant to take place between 16 March 2020 and 5 May 2021 have been postponed until 6 May 2021. Also, neighbourhood planning examinations should be dealt with by way of written representations rather that oral representation.

    Where that is not possible then they may take place through video conferencing or other technologies.

    Find out more about how we can support you with issues around planning law.

    This article covers the latest updates to planning law correct at time of publication on 17 April 2020. 

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