The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has received a jointly written letter from the Planning and Environmental Law Committees of the City of London Law Society and the Law Society making recommendations for changes to the planning system so as to support its functioning during the Coronavirus outbreak (“the Joint Letter”).
The Joint Letter covers many issues raised by Sarah Cook, Planning Law solicitor, in her recent article ‘Keeping a planning permission alive during the Coronavirus crisis - time limits, S106 agreements and CIL payments’ and highlights from the letter are outlined below.
As discussed by Sarah Cook, there is no current means within the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA) of allowing for time limits on planning permissions to be extended. With the construction industry having ground to a halt, developers will face practical delays to implementing planning permissions where the deadline is near. Further, with local authority planning departments not operating as smoothly as they otherwise would, there will likely also be delays in approval of reserved matters applications as well as discharging pre-commencement conditions.
The Joint Letter suggests legislation to allow for longer periods for the implementation of planning permission or the issuing of guidance to allow local planning authorities to amend planning permissions and extend time periods under Section 96 of the TCPA as solutions.
Viability of development sites is likely to become an issue as the property market adjusts to the coronavirus outbreak. As Sarah Cook highlighted in her aforementioned piece, the last recession of 2008 saw the Government relax requirements for affordable housing provision.
The Joint Letter suggests the above provisions allowing the renegotiation of housing obligations not only be revived but expanded, so as to provide for a wider consideration of viability and deliverability beyond affordable housing requirements. The Joint Letter suggests guidance be issued to local authorities requiring them to be flexible in considering applications from developers to vary Section 106 Agreements and to generally defer liabilities falling due during the period of the outbreak.
Sarah Cook previously highlighted how CIL payments to local charging authorities will still be required to be made during the Coronavirus outbreak, but also how notices of commencement may not be issued in time and CIL payments made late, owing to commercial viability of development sites and cash flow problems experienced by developers.
The Joint Letter comments on this point also with the suggestion that the CIL regulations be amended to provide for the deferral of CIL payments falling due during the period of the outbreak.
Holmes & Hills Solicitors’ specialist Planning & Development Team continues to service existing and new clients, as well as deal with connected third parties on all matters. The team can be contacted on the usual telephone numbers 01376 320456 (Essex) and 01787 275275 (Suffolk).
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