The Government is to extend planning permission deadlines in a bid help the construction industry boost building post lockdown, along with other measures announced this week by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick which include speeding up planning appeals and allowing builders more flexible working hours following agreement with their local council.
Planning permission usually expires after three years if work has not started onsite but sites with consent that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year will now see it extended to 1 April 2021.
The government estimates that by the end of this month alone, planning permission for more than 400 residential schemes providing more than 24,000 new homes would have expired and the move will prevent work that has been temporarily disrupted by the pandemic from stopping altogether.
Planning Inspectorate (PINS) will also be granted the ability to use more than one procedure – written representations, hearings and inquiries – at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal, speeding up the process.
Last year a pilot programme tested this approach and implemented recommendations of the Rosewell Review, which more than halved the time taken for appeal inquiries, from 47 weeks to 23.
Under the new measures, builders will be able to quickly agree more flexible construction site working hours with their local council for a temporary period making it easier to follow public health guidance onsite. Also, staggering builders’ arrival times means that public transport will be less busy and the risk of infection will be reduced.
“Building the homes the country needs is central to the mission of this government and is an important part of our plans to recover from the impact of the coronavirus,” said Housing Secretary Jenrick.
“New laws will enable us to speed up the pace of planning appeals and save hundreds of construction sites from being cancelled before they have a chance to get spades in the ground, helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many others.
“Taken together, these measures will help to keep workers safe and our economy moving as we work together to bounce back from the pandemic.
Housing Secretary’s announcement warmly welcomed
The RTPI, which has been calling on this Government to extend planning permissions granted since the beginning of lockdown, has warmly welcomed the measures. Its CEO Victoria Hills said: “We are delighted that the Minister has agreed with us and has taken these measures. Planners have been at the forefront of flexible approaches and innovative thinking in responding quickly to the pandemic and now how we need to shape a fairer and more sustainable recovery.
“The measures announced today should mean that developers can get on and start on the housing developments we need without having to apply for extensions. We also warmly welcome the greater flexibility allowed to the Planning Inspectorate announced today to use more than one procedure at a time to speed up the appeals process.”