The Government’s Business and Planning Bill received royal assent on 22 July 2020. It has been enacted to provide economic recovery and growth following the Covid-19 crisis.
The Act contains a number of measures, of which those most relevant to planning are as follows:
1 - There are measures to allow the automatic extension of planning permissions that have lapsed during the Covid-19 crisis. The measures allow permissions for development which have already received a grant of planning permission or Listed Building Consent and would lapse between 20 August (being 28 days after the Act was passed) and 31 December 2020 to be extended until 1 May 2021. These provisions will come into force on 20 August 2020. Planning permissions that have already lapsed between 23 March 2020 and 19 August will be subject to an additional environmental approval but if the relevant Local Planning Authority does not issue a decision on that environmental approval within a 28 day period or such period as may be extended by agreement between the Local Planning Authority and the applicant, then the Local Planning Authority is deemed to have granted the additional environmental approval.
2 - PINS have been provided with measures to allow Inspectors to simultaneously use written representations, hearing and inquiries when deciding a planning appeal, giving flexibility to use more than one procedure type when dealing with such an appeal and thus enabling appeals to progress at a faster pace. The measure is permanent and is now in force.
3 - There are temporary measures to fast-track applications from developers to request changes to planning conditions to allow building site working hours to be extended. Under the measures, Local Planning Authorities would have 14 days to determine such an application for extension, after which time they would be deemed to be approved. This measure came into force on 28 July. Guidance on the extension of site working hours indicates that Local Planning Authorities should not refuse applications to extend working hours until 9pm Monday to Saturday, without very compelling reasons. It goes on to say that in some cases, such as in areas without residential properties, extended working hours beyond this, including allowing 24 hour working where appropriate, may be justified.
4 - The Act includes measures to make it easier for premises in England serving food and drink, such as bars, restaurants and pubs, to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licencing. The procedures introduce a new 14-day determination period ensuring that businesses can obtain licences in a timely and cost-effective manner, thus aiding their financial recovery. Once a new pavement licence is granted or deemed to be granted, the application will also benefit from deemed planning permission to use the land for anything done pursuant to the licence while the licence is valid. The Act modifies the provisions of the Licencing Act 2003 to provide automatic extensions to the terms of on-sale alcohol licences to allow for off sales. These provisions came into force on 22 July 2020 and will remain in force until 30 September 2021 and will make it possible for licenced premises that have only an on-site licence to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises.
The Government has published detailed guidance on all of the above issues.