COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the construction sector in the UK, with the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showing the value of new orders in the second quarter of 2020 was the lowest since records began in 1964.
Private new housing was hardest hit, with the fall in new work hitting 51.2% when compared to the first quarter of the year.
The government has taken steps to kick start the construction sector, with provisions in the Business and Planning Act 2020 at the heart of the drive.
These provisions deal with planning permissions and listed building consents and, are for now intended to be temporary, and to act as modifications to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
Testing times for planning permission
Prior to the changes coming into force on 19th August 2020, any full or outline planning permission granted came with a strict time limit.
In the majority of cases, once full planning permission had been granted works must commence within three years of the permission, otherwise a new planning permission would need to be sought.
For outline planning permissions, the same time limit applied for the provision of more detailed plans and, once approved, a limit of two years in which the work had to commence.
The issues caused by the pandemic, and the difficulties of socially distanced construction work, has meant that a large number of proposed projects were in danger of missing these deadlines, leading to further delays and an all but inevitable backlog in dealing with the slew of re-applications.
The changes in the Business and Planning Act 2020 were designed to prevent this by extending planning permissions automatically, without new applications needing to be made.
Any planning permission with a time limit due to lapse between 19 August 2020 and 31 December 2020 will be automatically extended to 1 May 2021. No further approval is required.
In addition, any unimplemented planning permission with a time limit which lapsed between 23 March 2020 and 19 August 2020 can also be extended to 1 May 2021, but in these cases only after Additional Environmental Approval has been granted.
Any application for Additional Environmental Approval needs to be submitted electronically to the relevant local planning authority and needs to include:
If these assessments or screening had formed part of the original permission, then the new application will need to include details such as key findings and any measures intended to address environmental effects.
The applicant must also provide a report explaining why they feel the original assessment or screening remains relevant, despite the passage of time.
If assessments were not required originally, the applicant must explain why this should still be the case. If they feel a screening might be needed, even though that screening would reveal no assessment is required, they must provide enough information to allow the local authority to undertake the screening within 28 days.
There is no specific form to apply for Additional Environmental Approval and each local authority should provide an address where it can be submitted. For the authority to deal with the application quickly, the applicant should ensure it is clear and contains all necessary information.
Listed buildings consents made simpler
All listed building consents due to expire between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 will have the period extended automatically to 1 May 2021, with no need for further approval.
The government expects local authorities to co-operate if an applicant requests confirmation of a time limit extension. If not forthcoming, an applicant can use section 192 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to apply for a certificate of lawfulness of proposed development.
For the moment, these are temporary changes to help remove an impediment to the construction sector getting back to work. The government will however still have the option of increasing the milestone dates or the date to which the new extension will stretch, which is currently 1 May 2021.
If you have planning permission concerns and would welcome some advice on these changes please speak to Neil Faunch, a Director in our Commercial Property team on 01543 267 191 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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