Yesterday, the Business and Planning Act 2020 was passed. This provides for the automatic extension of some planning permissions. However, action needs to be taken in relation to others in order to ensure that they can still be implemented.
Ordinarily, a planning permission will require development to commence within 3 years of the grant of planning permission. This could cause problems for anyone with the benefit of planning permission who, owing to government restrictions on site working, and then limited availability of builders and materials, has not been able to keep their permission ‘live’ by starting development. If the planning permission was granted, for example, on 3 June 2017 it would ordinarily expire on 2 June 2020 if no work on site had started. Under normal circumstances, such a planning permission would have expired.
The Act provides for an automatic extension for planning permissions that require development to be started no later than a date between (i) 19 August 2020; and (ii) 31 December 2020. So, if, for example, your permission required development to begin by 1 November 2020, this date will be extended to 1 May 2021.
This doesn’t help with permissions that were due to expire before 19 August 2020 (such as the example of 2 June 2020 above). In those cases, a person with an interest in the land can, up until 31 December 2020, apply for an ‘additional environmental approval’. The local planning authority (LPA) has 28 days to respond, saying whether or not the additional environmental approval is granted. The LPA must grant the additional environmental approval if the EIA requirement and the habitats requirement are both met.
If the LPA does not respond within 28 days (unless an extension, up to a limit of an additional 21 days, has been agreed between the parties), they are deemed to have granted the additional environmental approval. If an additional environmental approval is granted, an extension can be granted so that development must begin by 1 May 2021.
The Act contains provisions to automatically extend the deadline for applications for approval of reserved matters that should have been made between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2021. The new deadline will be 1 May 2021.
As with planning permissions, the date for starting work under a listed building consent is extended. If works should have been commenced between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2021, there is an automatic extension to 1 May 2021.
As work on sites was halted for a period from 23 March 2020, and current social distancing measures may restrict the number of workers who can be on site at any one time, there is concern that sites are going to take longer than expected to be built out. The Act allows a person with an interest in the land to apply for a modification to the terms of a planning permission. This can be to allow work on site for longer hours or for days (or parts of days) when work would not otherwise be permitted.
An application must be made to the LPA, who can agree, disagree or modify the proposal. If the LPA does not respond within 14 days, the planning permission will be deemed to have been modified as requested.
Interestingly, whilst the date of 1 April 2021 in relation to extensions to planning permissions was subject to scrutiny and debate during the Bill’s passage through Parliament, the date in respect of modifications to construction working hours was not. Therefore, modifications cannot extend beyond 1 April 2021.
The Act should assist those who have already obtained planning permission not to lose the benefit of them. However, if the planning permission should have expired between 23 March and 19 August 2020, the extension will not be automatic – an application must be made.
LPAs should note the timescales for responding and put measures in place to ensure that applications are dealt with swiftly. If they fail to do so, they are at risk of being deemed to have given consent.
TLT has extensive experience in advising on all aspects of planning and environmental law. If you would like to discuss your matter, please get in touch.
Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove Jones
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at July 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.
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