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Coronavirus Support For The Planning System
May 2020

The Government has announced additional measures to support the planning system which provided a welcome boost for some areas amid the Coronavirus crisis.  

Planning Process  

Initial changes to the planning process to help find a way to socially distance during the planning process include the ability to allow flexibility on how planning applications were publicised together with allowing a longer period for representations, extending the timeframe from 14 to 21 days. In addition, there is an expectation that virtual Planning Committee meetings will become the norm and remote planning process applications should be preferred over paper applications. The Government has also made it clear that urgent COVID-19 related applications should be prioritised to support businesses who need to change their planning status whilst they pivot to continue to operate during this period. It is expected that virtual hearings and emerging practice will inform policy and process in the longer term.  

Community Infrastructure Levy  

Small and medium sized developers (with a turnover of less than £45m) are the targets for further support. It is expected that further amendments to the CIL Regulations 2010 are to follow and these amendments are expected to allow Authorities to defer CIL payments, to provide discretionary return of late interest, and disapply late payment charges. In addition, there are already existing flexibilities allowing delayed payment policies, discretionary waiver of surcharges and discretionary enforcement of unpaid CIL liabilities.  

Section 106 Agreements  

Planning Authorities are encouraged to consider varying Section 106 obligation delivery times. It is hoped that this will be done through Deeds of Variation, time limited deferral, considerate enforcement approaches and delays to the charging of sums due under the agreements process to spread the cash flow burden on developers.  

Timeframes  

Unfortunately the new measures have not extended periods on planning permissions that are due to expire during this period, which will mean that during a period when developers face greater challenges to get works underway, and/or seek to spread their cashflow burden that they have to undertake further expense to ensure their existing planning permissions do not expire. Some developers will not be in a position to make that financial commitment in the current climate and, therefore, it is expected that some consents will lapse during this period.  

It is good to hear that the Government are supporting smaller developers, it will be so wanted by those released from lockdown who are looking for further living space or independence in the future.  

It is good to see the Government turning to support the developers who will be providing much needed housing going forward. Many homeowners will be looking at what they need from their living space going forward and may be considering making changes. It is expected that the market may see an upsurge in growth for first and second time buyers. Therefore it is welcome support for the smaller developers by making changes to the planning systems makes bringing on developments more viable in the current market. However, it would have been good if this had been extended to some of the larger developers who have greater resources to support the housing market going forward. It is hoped that some of the anticipated changes will follow with practical and concrete solutions to support the industry going forward. 

For further advice you can speak to us at commercialproperty@jolliffes.com 

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