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New Business and Planning Bill 2020 to introduce planning measures to boost recovery

The Business and Planning Bill 2020, once in force, will introduce a range of reforms in a bid to promote post-lockdown economic recovery and growth. Part 3 of the Bill sets out reforms relating to construction working hours, extension of certain permissions and consents and amendments to planning appeal procedures, indicating that the Government sees planning and development as a critical tool to boost economic recovery. Key reforms are summarised below.

Automatic extension for implementation of certain planning permissions / consents

The Bill introduces an automatic extension to the period for implementation of the following until 1 April 2021:

  • full planning permissions and outline planning permissions due to expire during the period beginning 28 days after the Bill passes into law, and ending on 31 December 2020; and
  • listed building consents due to expire between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.

Where for an outline permission the period for submission of reserved matters expires between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020, an extension to 1 April 2021 will also apply. 

Additional environmental approval required in some circumstances

For full planning permissions and outline planning permissions expiring between 23 March 2020 and the date 28 days after the provisions take effect, an “additional environmental approval” from the local planning authority will be required in order for the extension to 1 April 2021 to apply. The LPA may only grant the additional environmental approval if:

  • in respect of environmental information assessment (EIA) requirements, the relevant development did not require EIA or, if it did, the authority has reached a “reasoned conclusion” in relation to the environmental information which it is satisfied is up to date; and
  • in respect of habitats assessment requirements, if a decision were being taken as to whether to grant the planning permission at the time the LPA is deciding the application, a habitats regulation assessment of the impact of the proposed development on a European site or a European offshore marine site would not be required, or, an assessment was carried out and concluded that the proposed development would not adversely affect the integrity of such sites. 

The LPA must approve unconditionally or refuse any application for additional environmental approval within 28 days (although this period may be extended by agreement to an additional 21 days). If the LPA fails to do so, the additional environmental approval will be deemed to be granted. There is a right of appeal.

Modification of construction working hours

An application can be made to the LPA for modification of a planning condition or document approved under a condition which restrict the times of day during which construction activities may take place.The modification may allow construction activities to be carried out for a longer period on a particular day or on all or part of a day during which they would not otherwise be allowed to be carried out.

The LPA may either modify the condition or document in accordance with the application, refuse the application, or determine the modifications to be made - provided the applicant agrees to the terms of any such determination. If the LPA fails to respond within 14 days the condition or document will be deemed to have been modified in accordance with the application. Applicants will have a right of appeal.

These provisions do not apply to development of an existing dwellinghouse, or within the curtilage of an existing dwellinghouse, or a change of use or number of dwellinghouses in a building.

Flexibility in the determination of planning appeals

Under the current law, planning appeals must be determined using one of three defined routes: a local inquiry, a hearing, or on the basis of written representations. Proposed amendments in the Bill will allow planning appeals to be heard using a mix and match of routes. The added flexibility will hopefully go some way speed up the planning appeal process.

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