The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) yesterday announced further measures intended to assist the development industry and boost the economy, including:

  • ‘Automatic’ extensions to time-limits for implementation of planning permissions, where these would have expired during the lockdown period;
  • ‘Fast-tracking’ requests for changes to construction working hours; and
  • Greater flexibility for planning appeal proceedings.

MHCLG stated that the new measures will be introduced this week, albeit they will require secondary legislation to be passed before coming into effect.

‘Automatic’ time-limit extensions

Following strong lobbying from within the industry, the Government has followed some of the devolved nations in confirming that planning permissions which have expired, or are due to expire, during the lockdown period will benefit from an automatic time-limit extension. This means that planning permissions (and listed building consents) which expired from 23 March, or will expire before 31 December this year, will remain valid until 1 April 2021.

Fast-track for changes to construction hours

The Government will temporarily introduce a new fast track route to apply for changes to planning restrictions on construction hours, to allow longer hours to support safe construction working. Local Authorities will have 14 days to determine applications, after which time they would be deemed to be approved. This measure is intended to be in force until 1 April 2021, but will not apply to construction work on individual houses.

Greater flexibility for Planning Appeal procedures

Currently, regulations only permit the pursuit of planning appeals, in any given case, under one procedure (written representations, hearing or inquiry). The proposed changes, which would be permanent, will allow more than one procedure to take place at a time, with the intention of speeding up the decision making process for inquiries and hearings.

In principle, these measures are welcomed as interventions that seek to support the development industry in uncertain and challenging times. There is little detail in yesterday’s announcement, and as ever this will be key to the effectiveness of the measures.

We will provide updated commentary when this detail is known, but meanwhile, should you require any further advice at this stage, please contact Neil Jones or any member of the Planning team.