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Covid-19: Planning profession impact - rolling news

Words: Laura Edgar
Covid-19 / iStock-1203426591

The Planner is keeping track of the coronavirus (Covid-19) related policy changes and pledges as they arise. Below you can find links to our coverage and sources you might find useful. We will be updating this resource regularly, so please consider bookmarking this page.


PINS falls short of ministerial targets for appeal decisions last year

The number of appeals decided by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) in 2020/21 within the ministerial target declined in comparison with 2019/20, according to the appeals body’s latest annual report.

Last year was dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the inspectorate had to adapt to a different way of working.  


Irish regulator warns of ‘seriously overstretched’ council planning departments

Many local authority planning departments are ‘seriously overstretched’, Ireland’s independent planning watchdog has warned.

That assessment by Niall Cussen is highlighted in the regulator’s latest annual report, which has just been published.

He also said the Covid-19 pandemic had thrown the issue of online council services into “sharp focus”.


Cultural and heritage organisations can apply to receive funding

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has announced that the final £300 million of the government’s £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund will open for applications ‘shortly’.

The cash will support arts, heritage, cultural and creative organisations in need of urgent funding.


Nearly 35,000 homes completed by Homes England last year

Homes England's various housing programmes saw the completion of 34,995 homes between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

The statistical release also shows that 37,330 houses were started on site. Of these, 28,191 (76 per cent) were for affordable homes.

Last year, construction was shut down for a period of time during the first lockdown implemented to stem the spread of Covid-19.


Levelling-up proposals must be reconnected to devolution

A report has called for a new settlement for place that reconnects the government’s levelling-up ambitions with the decentralisation of power in England.

The Local Government Information Unit’s publication A New Settlement for Place finds that “the implementation of a new constitutional, political and social settlement, centred around the needs of local places” will help the government achieve its plans for levelling up and building back better from the Covid-19 pandemic.


Minister makes more time for key elements of planning system

Media reports have indicated that housing minister Darragh O’Brien is pressing ahead with new legislation that would give councils more time to complete development plans and an extra period for builders to complete schemes where planning permissions are due to expire.

The proposal to allow more time for developers to complete commercial and residential schemes is a response to the pause in construction caused by Covid-19 restrictions, now being lifted.

Cardiff’s recovery blueprint targets city centre

Cardiff Council has begun consulting on its post-Covid-19 recovery and renewal strategy for the capital.

It has published a report that highlights the need to make the city centre more attractive, reinforcing Cardiff’s status as a major events city and improving its “liveability” by ensuring that it enjoys cleaner air, high-quality public spaces and green areas and improved public transport.

The council says it will reclaim the streets for people, with more shared space, greater flexibility in how that space is used, and a focus on placemaking.


National and local governments must unite in restoring nature

The restoration of nature can afford society 'wide-ranging' benefits and help to rebuild the economy following the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report.

A Wilder Recovery: How to Build Back Smarter, Stronger and Greener by The Wildlife Trusts also emphasises that improving the state of nature will help the UK reach net-negative carbon emissions.

It says a transformational approach will be required; nature must be at the heart of a sustainable, green economy. This starts with managing at least 30 per cent of land and sea for nature by 2030, states the report.


UK ranked bottom of G7 table for green recovery

The UK languishes at the bottom of the G7 nations’ ratings for green stimulus to the economy in response to the Covid-19 crisis, according to latest research.

A study by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), ahead of next week’s G7 Summit in Cornwall, reveals that the UK is placed bottom of the seven with £12.13 billion pledged. The leading three countries for green funding are the US, with £971.85 billion, Italy with £83.97 billion, and Germany with £49.39 billion.


Homes England’s remit should include regeneration, suggests report

The remit for government housing agency Homes England should be broadened to include regeneration, a report has recommended.

Key Cities and Core Cities UK also recommend that housing and regeneration funding should be linked.

The two networks, which represent 36 urban centres across the UK (see boxes), have published a report that identifies how the country can be levelled up and recover from ‘Zoomshock’, a term coined by the Centre for Economic Research to identify the increased number of homeworkers because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic activity as a result has shifted to different geographic spaces.


Approval of build-to-rent homes on a high

In the first three months of 2021, 6,937 new build-to-rent homes were granted full planning permission in the UK during the first three months of 2021, according to research published today (24 May).

The British Property Federation (BPF) said this is the highest number of permission granted for any quarter in the build-to-rent sector's history.

The third quarter of 2016 recorded 6,321 permissions and now sits in second place.

Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the BPF, noted that despite the lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19 at the start of 2021, the build-to-rent sector “has remained resilient – supporting the economy, new construction, jobs, its customers and local communities”.


Construction contract values topped £9bn in April

Contract awards increased by 58 per cent to £9.1 billion in April compared to March.

According to industry analysts Barbour ABI's latest Economic & Construction Market Review, this level of activity was last seen in January 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UK.


South East submits most applications seeking permission

April saw a drop in the number of planning applications submitted to the Planning Portal for England and Wales, with the most applications being submitted in the South East.

According to the latest Planning Portal Insight Report, April was the first month this year to show a decline in the number of applications submitted in 2021. A total of 65,357 applications were submitted during April, down from 77,289 in March.

The report states: "While the data indicates an overall higher number of applications submitted through 2021, April 2021 has followed previous seasonal trends in it regularly received lower application numbers than March."

In April 2020, which was the first full month of the first lockdown in the UK, just 38,541 applications were submitted, which is 19 per cent lower than the number submitted in April 2019.

The 2021 submission figure is 70 per cent more than 2020's.

MPs to investigate how rural productivity can be boosted

An inquiry to explore how the rural economy can be boosted in a post Covid-19 world has been launched by a group of cross-party MPs and peers.

It will be led by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse.

Transport should be central to levelling up plans for the North

Transport for the North has set out the 'essential' role transport has in levelling up the north of England and building a green recovery from Covid-19 in its 2021/22 Business Plan.

Members of Transport for the North, which include business and civic leaders, have put together a plan for strategic investment in transport that seeks to support sustainable and inclusive growth to aid recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.


Housing divide between young and old widens due to Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated housing inequalities between the young and old, according to recent research.

The Intergenerational Foundation highlights that younger generations have lost jobs and homes, with some suffering mental health issues, while the older generations “have stockpiled space”.


The low-down on low-traffic neighbourhoods

More than 140 low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) are in place across the country. Another 70 are planned in response to the government’s £250 million Emergency Active Travel Fund, initiated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. What has been learned from those LTNs already implemented? Communications consultancy Built Environment Communications Group (BECG) held a webinar to find out. Laura Edgar reports.


Council 'reluctant' to return face-to-face meetings

Lichfield District Council has said it is looking at ways to continue broadcasting its meetings to the public following the failure of a legal challenge for virtual meetings to be allowed to continue beyond 6 May.

Though "reluctant" to hold them, Lichfield District Council said two meetings this week – a planning committee meeting on Monday 10 May and a cabinet meeting on Tuesday 11 May – will be held in person but simultaneously broadcast to the public via YouTube. According to the agenda (pdf), only pre-agreed participants will be able to attend the meeting, in addition to all the members of the committee and relevant officers.


High Court spurns bid to continue virtual planning meetings

A High Court judge has dismissed a legal challenge that sought to continue local authority remote meetings beyond 6 May.

The court said: “In our view, once the flexibility regulations cease to apply, such meetings must take place at a single, specified geographical location; attending a meeting at such a location means physically going to it; and being ‘present’ at such a meeting involves physical presence at that location. We recognise that there are powerful arguments in favour of permitting remote meetings. But, as the consultation documents show, there are also arguments against doing so. The decision whether to permit some or all local authority meetings to be conducted remotely, and if so, how, and subject to what safeguards, involves difficult policy choices on which there is likely to be a range of competing views. These choices have been made legislatively for Scotland by the Scottish Parliament and for Wales by the Senedd. In England, they are for Parliament, not the courts.”

The full story and comment from RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills can be read here on The Planner website.


Survey: Low hopes across Britain for levelling-up agenda

A survey has suggested that just 11 per cent of people in Britain expect more investment in local facilities following the coronavirus.

Those in the North have even less confidence in seeing improvements in their region.

Commissioned by Social, the YouGov survey of 2,005 adults from across Britain explores people’s views and feelings about their local areas and how they think the Covid-19 pandemic will affect them. It also questions their trust in organisations with an interest in their communities.


Irish Government: Planning exemption moves to help eateries see out pandemic

Housing and local government minister Darragh O’Brien has welcomed cross-party support for two sets of regulations that provide planning exemption support for restaurants and cafés to operate as takeaways for the remainder of 2021 and waive street furniture licence fees for the remainder of 2021 for tables and chairs associated with outdoor dining. A third set of regulations covering the erection of awnings, coverings and other  apparatus for outdoor dining is making good progress.


Jobs and affordable homes are key to building back better, suggests report

The provision of affordable housing and jobs will define how the UK will build back better from Covid-19, according to a report.

The Legal & General Rebuilding Britain Index (RBI) maintains that these will boost the quality of people’s lives but that the UK’s recovery cannot be uniform or linear as regions and nations need to level up in different ways.


GPDO relaxations announced to help high street, hospitality, and tourism sectors in Wales

In a bid to help the high street, hospitality and tourism sectors recover from Covid-19, chief planner Neil Hemington has written to all planning authorities temporarily relaxing planning control for specified development through amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.

This change to the GPDO will make it easier for businesses like pubs and restaurants to trade outdoors and will allow the flexible use of town centre units.

It includes easing restrictions on erecting and leaving up marquees and other temporary structures, putting street furniture outside businesses and changing the use of a unit. This latest round of relaxations will take effect from 30 April 2021 and will remain in force until 3 January 2022.


Chief planner outlines policy changes

England’s chief planner Joanna Averley has written to local authority planners about the changes to the planning system and temporary measures that will remain to ease the path out of lockdown and aid economic recovery.


PAC Covid-19 update

The Planning Appeals Commission has updated its response measures to Covid-19 and announced its Belfast office will be open between 9am and 4pm. However, it has requested that case officers should not be emailed or telephoned directly for the time being. All email correspondence should be sent to [email protected], which is monitored daily.


Covid-19: Virtual planning committee meetings to end

The government has confirmed that temporary guidance introduced last year that enabled local authorities in England to host virtual planning committee meetings will end on 6 May.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, planning committee meetings have been allowed to be held virtually during restrictions implemented to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). The regulation is for meetings required to be held before 7 May 2021.

Local government minister Luke Hall has written to all local authority leaders to say extending the legislation beyond 7 May would require primary legislation.

Instead, the government has updated guidance to help local authorities so they can operate “safely and securely”. For local authority meetings that take place in person, the government says the principles set out in its working safely guidance should be followed.


We need spatial planning to successfully level up the country

Collaboration and shared vision are the keys to addressing regional inequality, says Simon Prescott.

It’s fair to say that the government’s levelling-up agenda in England has yet to get started. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a legitimate distraction, but has served as an urgent reminder why we need to see bold promises reflected in actions and clear results.

The issue isn’t a lack of will or funds, but the lack of a coherent plan...


Legal challenge for continuation of virtual planning meetings is lodged

The Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO), Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) and Hertfordshire County Council have lodged a legal challenge in the High Court that seeks a continuation of local authority remote meetings beyond the 6 May 2021.

The two bodies and the council included an application for the court to expedite proceedings to guarantee that a decision is made before the deadline.

RTPI renews its call for establishment of Green Growth Boards 

The RTPI has again urged the government to establish Green Growth Boards to deliver joined-up thinking on addressing the climate crisis, transport, infrastructure, housing provision and nature recovery.

The call was first made in the institute’s response to the government’s planning white paper, Planning for the Future, in a section about replacing the duty to cooperate, in October 2020.

In a new report, Planning for a Better Future, the RTPI states that many of the problems associated with planning in England can be traced back to an insufficient focus on the wider area.

Building on its April 2020 Priorities for Planning in England report, this news report outlines a number of practical proposals for change. It also calls on the government to recognise the important role planning has in building a better future post-Covid-19.


Further extension of changes for major application consultation regime

Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon has announced a further extension – until 30 September 2021 – of the temporary suspension of the requirement to hold a public event as part of pre-application community consultation on major planning applications.

Applicants will still need to comply with other requirements to ensure that communities are aware of and can make their input to key development proposals for their areas.

This date will be kept under review, taking account of any changes to the public health advice, to ensure that this emergency extension period runs no longer than absolutely necessary.

The measure was initially introduced because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Raft of new Scottish planning regulations driven by Covid-19 concerns

The Scottish Government has drawn up legislation allowing for the extension of time limits for planning permissions and consents because of the Covid-19 emergency.

Under these new measures, whereas a full planning permission, planning permission in principle, listed building consent or conservation area consent would otherwise expire before the end of September 2021, then that permission or consent should not now lapse until 31 March 2022. The permission would only lapse if development has not begun after that time.

In addition, the deadlines for submitting applications for approval of conditions have been extended: if the last date for making an application for an approval is within the emergency period (up to 30 September 2021), then the time limit for making such an application now runs to 31 March 2022.

The amended regime comes into force at the end of March 2021.

Welsh minister calls for tougher building regs backed by planning

Planning minister Julie James this week promised that a next Labour administration would look at amending planning legislation to make sure that developers ‘build to the current building regulations and not the ones in existence at the time that planning consents started’.

Answering questions about planning and development issues during a plenary session of the Senedd Cymru, she told AMs: “We'd like to be working on that after the election. There is a large number of people who are interested in looking to see what can be done in that space.

“If we’re all back after the election, I’m sure we'll be able to put together a quick working group to be able to do that.”

James also revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic had frustrated moves to tighten the building regulations on such issues as space standards and green infrastructure.


Fall in delivery of bungalows as demand rises

Research suggests there has been a rise in the number of over-65s who would consider moving to a bungalow but that only 1,833 were built in 2020 – equating to 1 per cent of the homes built in 2019/20.

In 2018, 2,418 bungalows were built while 2,384 were built in 2019.

McCarthy Stone, a developer and manager of retirement communities, warns that the number of bungalows being built each year is falling.

In 2000, 9,347 bungalows were built – 80 per cent more than the number being built today.

McCarthy Stone suggests that lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic might have contributed towards older people considering moving to more suitable properties, such as bungalows.

Louise Brooke-Smith: Novelty value

What's the connection between The Very Best of Leo Sayer and our collective recovery from Covid-19? Let Louise Brooke-Smith explain...


Covid-19: Pavement licenses to be extended

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed the extension of temporary pavement licenses for a further 12 months as part of plans to help the hospitality industry and high streets to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The extension is subject to Parliamentary approval.


Budget 2021: Sunak pledges £12bn for infrastructure bank; publishes prospectus for ‘levelling-up’ fund and announces growth deals

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has used his 2021 Budget to promise that the new UK infrastructure bank will be able to deploy £12 billion of equity and debt capital and be able to issue up to £10 billion of guarantees.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Sunak said he would do “whatever it takes” to support people and business as he set out a Budget to “protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people” as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, warned the chancellor, repairing the long-term damage wreaked “will take time”.


First Welsh national spatial strategy published

Housing and local government minister Julie James has launched the national spatial strategy in a 180-page document called Future Wales.

This blueprint sets out where housing, employment and infrastructure should be developed to support town and city centres; achieve decarbonisation and climate resilience; and improve the health and wellbeing of Wales in the period up to 2040.

RTPI Cymru Roisin Willmott FRTPI said the framework would be an important mechanism to shape the future of the country, particularly as Wales recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.


Nature recovery should be in plans to ‘grow back better’ from pandemic

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has stated that it is ‘vital’ that the recovery of nature is prioritised in the UK's economic recovery efforts alongside action on climate change to grow back better from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The committee’s report Growing Back Better: Putting Nature and Net Zero at the Heart of the Economic Recovery warns that if measures to promote economic recovery are not treated as an opportunity to “grow back better”, then the global collapse in biodiversity, together with the impacts of pollution and the climate crisis, “may, if left unchecked, result in an even more catastrophic crisis”.


Fund reopens for heritage project grants

Funding applications are being accepted by the National Heritage Lottery Fund for project grants ranging from £3,000 to £5 million.

This fund comes after almost a year of the National Heritage Lottery Fund providing emergency support for heritage in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result, in March 2020, new project funding was halted.

More than 950 organisations received a share of £50 million to help them to cope with the difficulties they faced.


RTPI publishes finalists for excellence awards

The RTPI has published the list of finalists for its 2021 Awards for Planning Excellence, including for a new category Planning Heroes in a Pandemic.

The finalists include consultancy AEC, planners at Cheltenham Borough Council, Land Use Consultants (LUC), Michelle Simpson-Gallego from Pegasus Group, the Planning Inspectorate and the planning team at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.


Build-to-rent supply increases, suggests research

The number of completed build-to-rent homes increased by 23 per cent in 2020 compared with the number completed in 2019, according to research published by the British Property Federation (BPF).

This, the BPF said, signals the sector’s “resilience” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pandemic reminds us of planning’s capacity to influence wellbeing

Covid-19 has ruthlessly exposed health inequalities relating to place. Planners have the tools to address these, argues Michael Chang.


News report: Lost earnings and longer hours, but technology saves the day- how Covid-19 has affected planning

Almost a quarter of planners have lost earnings as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, with most losses concentrated in the private sector.

The Planner’s annual Careers Survey found that 23 per cent of planners had lost between 1 and 100 per cent of their earnings since the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, with most of these losing up to 20 per cent.

Close to half of respondents (45 per cent) said that heir jobs had changed as a result of Covid-19, and six in 10 said they had worked solely from home since the start of the pandemic. Forty-six per cent said that they now preferred this to working in an office.

A similar number (43 per cent) reported that they were working longer hours since the first lockdown last March, and four in 10 planners said that they had become more productive.

“It might take longer than when we were in the office to get some information, and there are endless Teams meetings. But this year I have delivered at least as much if not more than ever,” said one public sector planner from the south-west of England with more than 20 years’ experience.

Slightly more than 250 RTPI members responded to the 2020/21 Planner Jobs Careers Survey in November, which focused on planners’ workplace experience of the Covid-19 crisis.


Nearly a 5% decline in contract award values in 2020

In 2020, the value of contract awards was £57 billion, which is 4.7 per less than the value awarded in 2019.

According to Barbour ABI's Economic & Construction Market Review, contract award values “held steady” in 2020 but the number of contracts awarded declined by just under 16 per cent.

Certain sectors felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but others experienced strong growth.


Lords concerned about temporary planning changes becoming permanent without consultation

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has published a report outlining its concerns about regulations that make permanent changes to publication and publicity requirements for certain planning matters that were initially introduced on a temporary basis during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two sets of regulations – the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes (Amendment) Regulations 2020 and the Infrastructure Planning (Publication and Notification of Applications etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 – remove the requirement to make certain planning process documents available for physical inspection permanently and publish them online instead.

The change was necessitated last year by the Covid-19 pandemic. Introduced in July, the temporary measure sought to ensure that local authorities could progress plans, programmes and projects while many public buildings remain closed.


Next Scottish Government ‘should create places for people’

RTPI Scotland is calling on the next Scottish Government to create healthy places for people by embedding 20-minute neighbourhoods into policy, practice and investment decisions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted "the importance of having well-designed, attractive, healthy and sustainable communities where people have local access to the services, shops and facilities they need on a daily basis", the institute’s manifesto states.

Published ahead of the Scottish elections in May this year, the policy statement goes on to say that 20-minute neighbourhoods can provide a focus for town and city centre regeneration, with housing introduced to support existing services and shops.


Stats: Year-on-year increase in planning application submissions https://www.theplanner.co.uk/news/stats-year-on-year-increase-in-planning-application-submissions

A total of 53,430 English and Welsh planning applications were lodged with the Planning Portal in December 2020, according to recently published statistics.

Overall for 2020, Planning Portal said that “despite the dramatic reductions of application submissions seen in the spring of 2020 [due to Covid-19], there were over 600,000 online applications submitted throughout 2020 – the highest levels in the last five years”.


Summer quarter saw housing bounce back

Between July and September 2020, 45,000 homes were completed on site, according to building control figures published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

This is a 185 per cent increase on the number completed between April and June, when England was on its first lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Where work started on site during this quarter, 35,710 homes were started, 111 per cent more than the previous quarter. Again, this reflects the national restrictions in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Councils asked to ‘redouble’ efforts to house rough sleepers

Housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick has asked councils to ‘redouble efforts’ to accommodate people that are sleeping rough and to ensure that they are registered with a doctor.

This is backed by an extra £10 million in funding.

The measure aims to ensure that anyone sleeping rough can be protected from Covid-19 and be contacted in order to receive a vaccine, in line with the priority groups outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.


PINS updates guidance

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has updated its guidance in line with the government's most recent restrictions.


Government pledges cash from high street fund

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that up to £830 million from the Future High Streets Fund will be split between 72 areas in England.

The money will go towards helping these towns and cities “transform” their high streets so they are “vibrant hubs” for future generations, as well as towards protecting and creating jobs.

The government also said the money, which was announced in December 2020, will help areas recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Application submissions rise in November 2020

Despite tiered and national lockdowns in place in England and Wales in November 2020, 81 more applications were submitted compared with October, according to Planning Portal’s latest Market Insight report.


Northern Ireland planning stats published

A total of 3,288 planning applications were submitted to councils in Northern Ireland in the second quarter of 2020/2021.

This is an increase of 42 per cent on the previous quarter and up 12 per cent on the previous quarter a year earlier.

The statistics have been published by the Northern Ireland Executive.

It warns that owing to Covid-19 restrictions, caution should be taken when interpreting the figures and when making comparisons with other time periods.

RTPI calls for ‘bottom-up’ approach to post-coronavirus high street planning

Covid-19 has and continues to speed up changes to the high street that were already happening in the high street, according to a report by the RTPI.

There is “unlikely” to be a return to past shopping habits, warns the institute.

For the research, nearly 4,000 comments posted under articles published on the Guardian website were considered using sentiment analysis and text-mining techniques.

Commenters believe that Covid-19 is speeding up changes to the high streets that were already happening before the pandemic took hold in the UK in March 2020.


Government announces cash for 68 green projects  

The government has announced that projects in England seeking to protect landscapes and retain thousands of green jobs will receive a share of nearly £40 million of funding.

The projects, announced as part of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, will see more than 800,000 trees planted and habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored.

Conservation work will be supported through the funding, as well as improved education about the environment.

In November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his £12 billion 10-point plan for a green recovery from Covid-19, which includes the Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The £40 million is the first round of funding, which will be delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.. The second round of funding will open early in 2021.

Overall housing starts slump, says Homes England

Homes England’s housing programmes saw 11,313 new houses started on site and 11,358 homes between 1 April and 30 September 2020.

This is a decrease compared with the same period a year earlier, according to statistics published by the government’s housing agency Homes England.

Starts on site were down by 38 per cent during the first half of 2020 compared with the first half of 2019 and completions were down 25 per cent.

Homes England has attributed the fall to the national lockdown implemented in March to stem the spread of Covid-19.


Report: Digital engagement should be built into start of planning process

Digital engagement should be a part of any large-scale engagement programme after the Covid-19 pandemic, recommends a report published today (8 December).

Moving consultation online during the pandemic will have “created an expectation with the public that these options will be available after the pandemic”, states The Future of Engagement.

Published by consultation and engagement practice Grayling Engage and the RTPI, the study suggests that if digital engagement options are not offered, “organisations could risk criticism for not being fully accessible”.

Research for the report was conducted nationwide, and involved the public and industry professionals working across planning, property, infrastructure and health. It considers how the Covid-19 pandemic changed public decision-making and what this might mean for the future.


Local authorities cite Covid-19 catastrophe for park services

Parks and green spaces are on the brink of losing 87 per cent of their income because of Covid-19, according to local authorities.

Although most parks remained open during the first lockdown earlier this year, their sources of income such as cafés, sports pitches and visitor attractions were forced to close, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Many council park services also face higher costs such as enhanced cleaning, personal protective equipment and signage.

The LGA anticipates a continued loss of income owing to the need to employ more staff or reduce visitor numbers to comply with social distancing guidelines. The pandemic has also resulted in the temporary cessation of volunteering and the loss of in-kind volunteer contribution to parks services.

Liverpool FC set to propose Anfield expansion

Liverpool Football Club is poised to submit a planning application to redevelop and expand its the Anfield Road stand this week.

The planning application was paused in the spring because of uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Watchdog reveals scale of Covid-19 impact on rail industry

The Covid-19 pandemic caused a catastrophic collapse in the number of rail passengers, forcing the government to bail out the industry with £1.7 billion up to June.

Figures released by the National Audit Office (NAO) in its overview of Department for Transport (DfT) spending this year reveal that rail passenger numbers fell from 97 per cent of their normal lives in the first week of March to 5 per cent by the end of that month, when the first lockdown was fully in force.

The public spending watchdog acknowledged the collapse threatening the financial viability of rail operators, promoting the DfT to launch emergency measures agreements, which transferred all revenue and cost risks to the department from operators. Operators were paid a fixed management fee for operating services, with a potential performance payment based on reliability, punctuality and other targets.


Housing secretary relaxes retail opening hours

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has issued a written statement on extending retail opening hours following the publication of the government's Covid Winter Plan.

He wrote: "Restrictions on shop opening hours on weekday and Saturdays were removed by section 23 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. However, many retailers are subject to local controls through planning conditions which restrict opening times, particularly in the early morning, evening and at night, to make the development acceptable to local residents who might otherwise suffer from noise and other local amenity issues."


Covid-19 is set to double council housing waiting lists

Council housing waiting lists in England could nearly double to two million households next year because of the economic impact of Covid-19.

Research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), the Association of Retained Council Housing and National Federation of ALMOs warns rough sleeping, homelessness and sofa-surfing are likely to spiral in the coming months.

The organisations maintain that a post-pandemic building boom of 100,000 social homes for rent each year is needed to meet this demand and deliver a £15 billion boost to the economy. This would be the equivalent to more than half of the entire annual economic performance of Birmingham.


Johnson sets out his 10 point plan for a green revolution

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out his £12 billion 10 point plan for a green recovery from Covid-19, including more offshore wind capacity, cleaner public transport and carbon capture and storage.

This follows his plans to create national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) to protect England’s ‘iconic landscapes’, which The Planner reported on 16 November. An additional £40 million will be invested into the government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund.


Labour urges government to bring forward flooding investment

Ahead of the spending review, the Labour Party has called for the flooding protection investment to be brought forward as part of a wider challenge to the government to ‘Build it in Britain’.


Careers Survey 2020/21: Planning careers in the year of Covid-19

2020 has been an extraordinary year. Have your say in our annual Planner Jobs Careers Survey to help us – and the RTPI – understand what impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on planners' earnings, job roles and career prospects.


Landowners encouraged to help environmental recovery

Landowners have a critical role to play in the recovery of the environment and there are already schemes open to them, but delays to the environment bill have meant that they don’t want to commit until more clarity on the bill is available.

A Business Case for Cultivating Natural Capital, published by ecological planning consultancy EPR (Ecological Planning and Research) Ltd, asks landowners to look at the environmental and financial opportunities currently available for their land.

Covid-19 has and continues to create uncertainty for estate-based businesses, says the consultancy. Therefore, opportunities to improve the environment that simultaneously generate additional income streams that are predictable must not be ignored.


RTPI: High street recovery at risk if permitted development is not controlled

Controls are necessary to guarantee that homes delivered through permitted development rights (PDR) do not damage efforts to revitalise the economies of town centres.

This was the message RTPI deputy head of policy Aude Bicquelet-Lock made while giving oral evidence to a Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into supporting UK high streets after Covid-19. It is a point that the RTPI has made repeatedly about PDR.

Planning appeals guidance updated

The Planning Inspectorate has updated its procedural guide in line with the Building and Planning Act. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, inspectors decided the appeals process would take the form of written representations, a hearing or a planning inquiry. The act sets this out and the procedural guide reflects this.


Northern Ireland Exectuve: Further town centre funding

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced £11.6 million for town and city centres to support them in their recovery from Covid-19 with funding for initiatives like pocket parks, cycle paths and pedestrian walkways, small-scale environmental improvements and converting  vacant properties for temporary uses. 

Northern Ireland Executive


Plans to decarbonise transport should link to spatial planning

Although welcome, plans to decarbonise transport need to link to spatial planning and transport policies should provide a ‘clear route map’ to net-zero 2050.

So says a report published by the Transport Planning Society and written by the University of Hertfordshire.

According to State of the Nations, the Covid-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for the transport planning profession and transport policymakers to “pause and consider” what changes could be made to create an efficient, integrated and sustainable transport system.


Home comforts: What the lockdown stress test tells us about our homes and neighbourhoods

The Covid-19 related lockdown provided a unique opportunity to 'stress test' our homes and neighbourhoods, to find out how well they support healthy, happy lives - or not. The results are extremely mixed, says Matthew Carmona, and there is much to learn.


Mallon seeks to improve community engagement

Nichola Mallon, Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister, has established a Planning Engagement Partnership to assess how to improve community engagement.

She said the partnership would consider how the quality and depth of community engagement could be enhanced at regional and local planning levels, as well as to help improve the planning system experience for users.

“Public participation is an important part of the planning process and it is imperative that we look at ways to improve the community’s interaction with it, whether that be through commenting on your council’s local development plan or planning applications, or responding to consultations on policy or guidance.”

She noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought community engagement into “sharp focus”, as the Department for Infrastructure has put in place temporary legislation and guidance that aims to enable councils to continue processing major planning applications.


Planning application submissions continue to rise

Figures published by the Planning Portal show that there was a 29 per cent increase in submissions of planning applications in September 2020 compared with the same month a year earlier.

This continues the upward trend of recent months, after a downturn between March and May owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

AHF announces grants for heritage projects

Projects in England that seek to revitalise local high streets will receive grant money from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF).

AHF’s Transforming Places through Heritage programme is aimed at local groups, charities and social enterprises to help them to create new uses for neglected or underused historic buildings.

Matthew Mckeague, CEO of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said: “The high street has been buffeted over many years from the forces of online shopping, rising costs and most recently the impact of Covid-19. But we believe there is an opportunity to rethink their role radically. Part of this is finding imaginative new uses for old or historic spaces that help revitalise town centres and build fresh connections within communities."


People should live ‘never more than 10 minutes’ from basic facilities

When designing neighbourhoods, the aspiration should be for everyone to live within a five-minute walk of ‘significant’ green space or a park and ‘never be more than 10 minutes’ from basic facilities.

This is one of several recommendations set out in a report – Home Comforts – published by the Place Alliance, which is hosted by UCL, with support from Urban Design London, Good Homes Alliance and the Urban Design Group.

It comprises the results of a survey of 2,510 households across the UK to find out how the design of homes and neighbourhoods affected their experience of the lockdown implemented to stem the spread of Covid-19.

It finds that houses are more comfortable than flats, with the homes built since 2010 recording the lowest proportion of comfortable residents. Two-thirds of people felt either comfortable or very comfortable, but a sixth were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable. Extrapolated across the UK, the report states, this represents 10.7 million uncomfortable people.


Strong place-based leadership is instrumental in the battle against Covid-19

The Covid crisis has thrown into sharp relief the need for stronger local governance in the UK. We need to rebalance local and national power, argues Robin Hambleton.


Builders workloads increase due to home improvements

New data shows that 47 per cent of builders saw an increase in their workloads during the summer months.

According to the Federation of Master Builders’ State of Trade Survey, 42 per cent of respondents predict that their workloads will be higher in the autumn.

Chief executive Brian Berry attributed these statistics to people wanting home upgrades.

The survey also found that 74 per cent of SMEs say the impact of the coronavirus is currently constraining their firm’s output – down from 93 per cent in Q1 of 2020.


Heritage organisations to receive more government investment

The government’s Culture Recovery Fund will contribute £103 million to heritage organisations in England to help during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 445 organisations will receive a share of the money. It is intended to help in restarting repair and maintenance work, to keep venues open and save jobs.

Nature is ‘vital’ to the economy

Natural England has pledged that in its role as an adviser to the planning system it will ensure that the value nature provides is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ but recognised as being ‘vital’ to economic and social needs.

Setting out its “vision” for the next five years, Natural England said a “truly green” recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic must allow nature to thrive in places where people live, work and play. Green space must be provided for health and wellbeing and to mitigate the effects of climate change.


Covid-19 knocks back Irish social housing schemes

Irish minister for housing and local government Darragh O’Brien admitted this week that Covid-19 was having a significantly adverse impact on the provision of social housing both in terms of households helped and the provision of new units.

The latest statistics on social housing showed that significantly fewer households were helped during the first two quarters this year.

Fewer than 10,000 households were supported under existing build, acquisition and leasing arrangements. That represented 35 per cent of the total expected delivery this year.

Covid-19 recovery blueprint includes focus on town centres

The Welsh Government has published a blueprint setting out its priorities for a Covid-19 recovery strategy that includes a focus on town centre investment and low-carbon housing. 

The package of proposals will be bankrolled by £320 million of fresh funding. 

A Strategic Sites Acquisition Fund will be launched to enable local authorities to acquire land and high street premises in local town centres in order to revitalise centres that may see increased footfall as more people work from home for some or all of the time. 

Also promised is a co-investment scheme to enhance the attractiveness of town centres. This will focus in its initial stages on enhancing green space.


Johnson makes pledge on new green ‘ambitious targets’

The prime minister has allocated £160 million to upgrade ports as he commits the government to increasing the UK’s offshore wind capacity to meet new green ‘ambitious targets’.

Johnson made the commitment in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference (6 October). He also outlined how the government plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and support 60,000 jobs.

As part of the plans, which also seek to “build back green” from the Covid-19 pandemic, the government will make £160 million available to upgrade ports and infrastructure across communities, such as those in Teesside and Humber in northern England, Scotland and Wales to increase offshore wind capacity, which currently meets 10 per cent of electricity demand.


Beth McMahon: My view on... Covid-19 and Canada

Canadian Institute of Planners CEO Beth McMahon is encouraged by increased cooperation between Canada's different levels of government.


Covid-19: Temporary changes to NI planning application process extended

Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon has extended the temporary suspension of the requirement to hold a public event as part of pre-application community consultation on major planning applications.

The Department for Infrastructure said the published guidance for applicants suggesting alternatives to this consultation process will remain in place.

Applicants will still need to comply with other requirements that ensure communities are aware of and can contribute to major development proposals in their area. 


Wales Online reports: Carmarthenshire LDP delay 

Preparation of Carmarthenshire Council’s replacement local development plan (LDP) has been delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak and instead of being scheduled for adoption by the end of next year is unlikely to have completed all its stages before the summer of 2022.  

Wales Online


Heathrow rail link delayed by Covid-19 and court ruling

The rail link between Heathrow Airport and the Great Western Main Line could be delayed by up to two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic and a forthcoming Supreme Court hearing.

The planning application for the 6.5km rail link, first due to be submitted in 2019 has been postponed until 2021 at the earliest. The development consent order for the project was already facing delays after the Court of Appeal ruled in February that Heathrow’s expansion was unlawful for not considering climate change targets under the Paris Agreement.

The Supreme Court is due to hear an appeal from Heathrow Airport in October.


NI capital plots its economic recovery

Belfast City Council has detailed its priorities and the resources it will commit to the capital’s economic recovery as it confronts the Covid-19 emergency.

Actions include working with government departments to implement a £3 million Revitalisation Fund to support the planning and safe reopening of the city and key arterial routes.

Buses and tram services threatened by deep cuts without Covid-19 support

Bus services could be slashed by up to 40 per cent if the government withdraws financial support from local public transport services, a leading consultancy is warning.

Tram services are also at serious risk, with the temporary closure of light rail systems, according to a study by transport specialists Steer. It points out that government support allowed public transport to continue during the national lockdown, enabling key workers to travel to and from work, as well as providing a more comprehensive service at lower socially distanced capacity following the easing of restrictions.


Warning of car-led recovery threat to carbon targets

The UK is standing on the precipice of a car-led recovery from Covid-19 that will scupper any chance of meeting carbon emission targets.

The warning by Andy Bagnall, chief strategy officer for the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), comes as latest Department for Transport data reveals car-use is outstripping other forms of transport, with the return of the morning rush hour and traffic back to January’s levels.


Research highlights culture’s role in revitalising high streets

Cultural organisations will have a vital role in reanimating high streets and local economies as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to two studies.

The studies, both unveiled by Arts Council England, argue that culture can breathe new life into town centres, encourage local economic growth and job opportunities, while generating footfall in areas where it has dropped because of the pandemic.

Half a million more people on social housing waiting

The real social housing waiting list in England is 500,000 households more than official figures suggest, according to the National Housing Federation (NHF).

Its research says the true number of people needing social housing in England has now hit 3.8 million. This equates to 1.6 million households – 500,000 more than the 1.16 million households recorded on official waiting lists.

Because of the severe shortage of social homes, some of these people have been on a council waiting list for almost two decades and may never be housed, the NHF warns. The number of people in need of social housing is set to rise rapidly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with low-income earners twice as likely to lose their jobs.

Funding unveiled to help historic high streets recover  

High streets across England are to receive £95 million under government funding delivered through Historic England’s Heritage Action Zone Initiative.

The funding, which is designed to restore buildings that have fallen into disrepair, will be awarded to 68 areas.

The move also is also aimed at helping historic high streets to recover from declining footfall and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the initiative, local authorities will lead partnerships on schemes to create new homes, shops, work places and community spaces, which will restore local historic character and improve the public realm.

Planning fee incomes continue to fall despite bigger workloads

Local authority planning department fee incomes continued to be significantly lower during the summer despite workloads increasing, according to the Planning Portal.

Its monthly Planning Market Insight Report says fee income between June and August continued to be down by nearly £3.5 million on 2019. This follows figures in April and May that showed a combined loss of £9.3 million in England.

However, August saw a 19 per cent increase in submissions when compared with 2019, maintaining the recovery after Covid-19.

Economists call for government to level up North’s health and jobs

The government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda in the North of England will only succeed if it supports people employed in the sectors hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis and helps to improve health and wellbeing, according to leading economists.

The government has signalled it will focus on major infrastructure projects as it attempts to rebalance the UK economy. However, the Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review, which has been updated one year from its first report, says the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified existing economic inequalities between North and South, against a backdrop of highly centralised decision-making and significant regional disparities.


Facilitate reports: Wales aims for 30% of the workforce to work remotely

The Welsh Government has stated its long-term ambition to see around 30 per cent of Welsh workers working from home or near from home – even after the threat of Covid-19 lessens.

This would be achieved by driving changes to Wales’s working culture that would give more people the choice to work in a way that helps their productivity as well as their work-life balance.


Mallon commits to delivering change and a green recovery

Nichola Mallon, infrastructure minister at the Northern Ireland Executive, has outlined her commitment to ‘seizing the opportunities to enable a green cleaner recovery towards a new and better normal for all of us’. 

“More than ever, when faced with the challenge of Covid-19, the turbulence of Brexit, and the climate emergency, I believe we need to radically change the way we do things and plan for the future. It is my firm view that the planning profession, and indeed the planning system, are well placed to address these challenges innovatively through partnership working, through both central and local government, and also across the public and private sectors working with our communities and with our neighbours across these islands.”


Trees are important to public health, says RTPI

The government’s forthcoming England Tree Strategy should clearly set out the role of trees in supporting biodiversity and public health after the Covid-19 pandemic.


England’s ‘first’ land commission launched in Liverpool

Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram has established England’s ‘first’ Land Commission to improve the management and use of land in the region.

The commission will review the use of public land for community wealth building.

“The unprecedented circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, with all its economic consequences, make it even more important for us to ensure that we can wring the maximum possible community value from our land assets to encourage sustainable economic recovery.

“I’ve brought together a commission made up of senior figures from the worlds of academia, property development and planning. I have challenged them to think imaginatively and come back to me with radical recommendations for how we can make the best use of publicly owned land to make this the fairest and most socially inclusive city region in the country." 


News report: The rise of renewables

Renewable energy is leading the charge towards transforming UK power generation. Huw Morris looks at how the winds of change are blowing. 

Not many industries have seen good times lately. But for one, 2019 was a fine year and 2020 is shaping up to be an even better vintage. 

Renewable energy is in the vanguard of meeting the UK’s net-zero emissions target. So how well has the sector performed recently? How much renewable power is in the planning pipeline? And can this help the UK economy recover after Covid-19?


Retailers report sharpest fall in jobs since 2009 financial crash

The continuing crisis facing the UK’s high streets is highlighted by a CBI survey that shows retailers have suffered their worst job cuts since the 2009 financial crash.

The business group’s latest monthly survey predicts an even sharper decline in retail jobs expected in the year to September.


Labour warns of deepening regional inequality after Covid-19

Deepening regional inequality will be triggered by huge job losses from the Covid-19 pandemic with some parts of the UK economy hit harder than others, according to the Labour Party.

Areas with staff in struggling sectors such as aviation, retail and manufacturing would be particularly affected, the party said after analysing the Office for National Statistics’ business register and employment survey.

Crossrail admits further delay and overspend

London’s embattled Crossrail project will cost an extra £450 million and will not open until 2022.

Overspending on the rail line will now reach £1.1 billion more than was announced in December 2018 to finish the scheme.

Crossrail’s project board said the line's central section, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, would be ready to open “in the first half of 2022”.

The line was initially due to open in December 2018. The latest estimate means that the project will cost around £19 billion to complete against a budget of £15 billion before 2018.

A statement from the board said “a programme of this scale and complexity was already challenging, with pressures on the schedule before Covid-19 became a factor; the impact of Covid-19 has made the existing pressures more acute”.

Covid-19 unleashes ‘financial Armageddon’ on UK night-time economy

The UK’s night-time industry is facing ‘financial Armageddon’ with more than three-quarters of a million jobs at risk in the aftermath of Covid-19.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said 60 per cent of businesses in the sector would collapse within the next two months unless they receive increased government support to see them through the pandemic crisis. This could cost 754,000 jobs with nightclubs, particularly in smaller towns, under severe threat due to ongoing uncertainty about when they will be allowed to reopen.


Hertsmere revises local plan timetable

Hertsmere Borough Council has agreed that its new draft local plan will be published in spring 2021. Its publication has been delayed because of Covid-19.

Following the publication, there will be a six-week consultation period so that the public and other interested parties will be able to give their views on the plan before it is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate and the housing secretary for examination.  

The council’s new head of planning Ross Whear signed off the revised timetable in agreement with the council’s managing director, Sajida Bijle, and portfolio holder for planning Harvey Cohen.  

Whear said: “The decision to delay publication of our plan has not been taken lightly. However, it has become apparent that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for additional preparatory work means it would be impossible to keep to our original timetable.

“While it is regrettable, this in no way represents a loss for our residents and businesses. In fact, it means we can spend more time getting everything right and ensuring a smooth progression to the next stage of the local plan process.”


Scottish Government: Covid-19 measures extended

Ministers have announced that they intend to extend both Coronavirus Acts, which will affect the duration of planning permission, listed building consent and conservation area consent beyond the current expiry dates. Subject to Parliamentary agreement, the ‘emergency period’ will last until 31 March 2021, and the ‘extended period’ to 30 September 2021.


Covid-19 hits Thames Tideway on costs and timetable

The Thames Tideway ‘super sewer’ is expected to cost £233 million more and will open nine months later than expected as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Construction of the 25km sewer under the River Thames ground to a halt earlier this year owing to the pandemic and started again in May but with restricted working practices and social distancing.

The final project budget is now expected to be £4.13 billion.


Covid-19 unleashes ‘financial Armageddon’ on UK night-time economy

The UK’s night-time industry is facing ‘financial Armageddon’ with more than three-quarters of a million jobs at risk in the aftermath of Covid-19.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said 60 per cent of businesses in the sector would collapse within the next two months unless they receive increased government support to see them through the pandemic crisis. This could cost 754,000 jobs with nightclubs, particularly in smaller towns, under severe threat due to ongoing uncertainty about when they will be allowed to reopen.

Labour warns of deepening regional inequality after Covid-19

Deepening regional inequality will be triggered by huge job losses from the Covid-19 pandemic with some parts of the UK economy hit harder than others, according to the Labour Party.

Areas with staff in struggling sectors such as aviation, retail and manufacturing would be particularly affected, the party said after analysing the Office for National Statistics’ business register and employment survey.

Shapps unveils team to speed transport infrastructure schemes

The government will launch a special unit to unblock transport infrastructure projects delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) advisory body, called the Acceleration Unit, aims to share lessons from successful projects and unblock schemes. It will report to transport secretary Grant Shapps.

The unit will be headed by Darren Shirley, chief executive of charity the Campaign for Better Transport and starts work next month. It will aim to apply lessons learned from successful projects such as the £1.5 billion, A14 scheme in Cambridgeshire, which was finished on budget and eight months ahead of schedule.

Crossrail admits further delay and overspend

London’s embattled Crossrail project will cost an extra £450 million and will not open until 2022. Overspending on the rail line will now reach £1.1 billion more than was announced in December 2018 to finish the scheme.

Crossrail’s project board said the line's central section, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, would be ready to open “in the first half of 2022”.

The line was initially due to open in December 2018. The latest estimate means that the project will cost around £19 billion to complete against a budget of £15 billion before 2018.

A statement from the board said “a programme of this scale and complexity was already challenging, with pressures on the schedule before Covid-19 became a factor; the impact of Covid-19 has made the existing pressures more acute”.


West Midlands seeks more powers to aid Covid-19 recovery

Council leaders in the West Midlands and the mayor of the region’s combined authority have called on the government to devolve more powers to aid its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The proposals have been submitted to the government ahead of the publication of a devolution white paper which is expected later this year.


Work suspended on London airport

London City Airport has announced it will suspend work on extending its terminal as it re-evaluates the timeframe for its development programme as a result of Covid-19.

Construction activity will be paused at the end of 2020 after the development of eight new aircraft stands that will accommodate the new generation of cleaner, more sustainable aircraft, a full length parallel taxiway and new passenger facilities are completed.

South Downs sets out nature recovery plan

The South Downs National Park Authority and its partners have set out a materplan that seeks to boost nature and drive a green economic recovery from Covid-19. 

The strategy aims to create a “connected network” of green infrastructure that makes havens for wildlife, supports local economies and helps mitigate climate change. It further intends to ensure that local people benefit from a better natural environment.

Record number of applications submitted in July

New statistics have shown that 59,000 planning applications were submitted online from across England and Wales in July.

This figure, Planning Portal says, is the highest number submitted in a single month since it began its records in 2005 as the recovery from Covid-19 continues.


Covid-19: Staycations key to supporting tourism sector

Domestic travel around the UK will be important to safeguarding domestic tourism and the support of jobs as part of the recovery from Covid-19.

This is according to planning consultancy Lichfields. 

Before the virus broke out, London was the top UK destination for 50 per cent of people visiting the UK, Tourism: Retrench and Rebound states. 

This has declined as a result of the pandemic, as has tourism across the UK, with June forecasts from VisitBritain showing inbound tourist numbers to the UK declining by 59 per cent and a 63 per cent reduction in spend, this year, the consultancy points out. 

Lichfields says this represents a loss against the pre-Covid forecast of 25.3 million visits and £19.7 billion in spend. This is despite international travel resuming in July. 


Khan demands government rescue package for London’s West End

London mayor Sadiq Khan is urging the government to take urgent action to save the capital’s embattled West End from a perfect storm caused by Covid-19 that threatens its existence.

The move follows forecasts by the New West End Company, which represents 600 retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and property owners in the capital, of a loss of more than £5 billion retail sales within the district this year.

A third of the retail and hospitality workforce face redundancy by the end of 2020.


Covid-19: Rail station investment could boost local recovery

Local economies and communities could get a much-needed boost from the investment in rail stations as part of the recovery from Covid-19, according to a report by the Urban Transport Group. 

Action Stations: How Devolution is Transforming Rail Stations for the Better finds that the greater the involvement of local or devolved authorities in station transformation, the better the local station. 

“Local authorities and the Scottish and Welsh governments have been instrumental in opening, reopening or upgrading stations, and sometimes reopening whole lines. These projects have opened up access to opportunity for more people in more places – including to jobs, training, education, healthcare and leisure.”

The report explains that devolved authorities are aware of the “proven economic benefits of putting communities back on track” and the “less tangible boost it can give to civic pride in communities that all too often can feel left out and left behind”.


News report: Developing situation

Amid a flurry of government announcements to rebuild Britain, Huw Morris looks at how development fared during lockdown

Politicians cannot resist making reannouncements, and June and July witnessed some classic examples. Former chancellor Sajid Javid set out his ambitions for major infrastructure spending more than a year ago. This was then reannounced by his successor Rishi Sunak in March before Prime Minister Boris Johnson dressed up a modest £5 billion as a ‘new deal’ in response to Covid-19. At 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the money was neither new nor out of the F D  Roosevelt locker – his New Deal was worth more than 40 per cent of US GDP at its peak. The spending was in place before the pandemic struck.


How can high streets recover from the impact of Covid-19?

High streets are taking a battering under Covid-19. Simon Wicks asked five experts how we can restore the heartbeat to the UK’s town centres and  local economies

On July 9, John Lewis announced the closure of eight stores, including its flagship Birmingham branch. It is far from the only household name to be shutting up shops. On the same day, Boots closed 48 opticians. Coffee chain Pret a Manger has closed 30 stores. T M Lewin and Harveys have closed completely.

Hundreds – thousands – of smaller chains and independents are facing closure, too. Covid-19 is crashing through our high streets like a giant wave and washing away anything that isn’t firmly anchored.

Jenrick commits cash for 45,000 homes

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has committed £1.3 billion to deliver up to 45,000 homes, create 85,000 jobs, upgrade skills and improve infrastructure as part of government plans to deliver a green economic recovery from Covid-19.

More than 300 projects in England will receive a share of the £900 million Getting Building Fund. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this fund in June, which will see the money used to get “shovel-ready” housing and infrastructure projects started. 

The investment is also expected to reduce around 65 million kilograms of CO2 emissions across England, according to the government.


A green light for recovery?

The coronavirus pandemic has left the economy in dire need of emergency care. The call for a ’green’ recovery is growing louder, as Huw Morris reports – but is the government listening?

Economics is the only field in which two people win the Nobel Prize for saying opposing things. Proponents of the dismal science – invented, it is said, to make astrology look good – wisecrack that if you put 10 economists into a room, you will get 11 opinions.

Recovering from the Covid-19 crisis is no joke. Yet the pandemic is broadly dividing opinions into three cohorts, each one signified by a letter. 

Wild optimists, now few in number, predict a V-shaped recovery. Others say the letter will be U. But with Covid-19 revealing a sharp divergence between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ as well as along ethnic lines, a big fear is a K-shaped recovery amid the context of runaway climate change.


Cycling and walking plan on track in England

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a cycling and walking plan that seeks to tackle the causes of ill health and build on increased numbers of people cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Vive le post-Covid economic resilience revolution

Recovery from the social and economic effects of Covid-19 offers the chance to do things better, argues Charlotte Morgan. But how do we start to create the resilience that communities will need to withstand future shocks?


Chief planner’s letter outlines recent changes to the planning system in England

England’s interim chief planner Dr Michael Bingham OBE has written to local planning authorities to draw attention to the measures in the Building and Planning Act 2020 that that aim to address issues arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The act received Royal Assent on 22 July 2020. 

It contains a series of urgent measures, most of which are temporary, that intend to help businesses, including those in the hospitality and construction sectors, to get
back to work safely and quickly.

The Planner has outlined the key points from the letter, which also considers a number of other regulations and changes, such as permitted development.

District councils concerned about meeting housing targets

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) has called on the government to take a pragmatic approach to support councils and amend existing planning guidelines as planning authorities are concerned about delivering their housing targets owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The representative body for 187 district councils in England with responsibility for planning and housebuilding has warned that these councils could be unfairly penalised.

Construction on new homes was halted in March as the government implemented a lockdown intended to stem the spread of the virus. A DCN survey* shows that 57 per cent of respondents are “very concerned” about being able to sustain a supply of land for housing over the next five years and meet their housing targets. They are worried this could lead to speculative developments despite planning departments working and deciding planning applications throughout lockdown.


Spatial planning is key to reducing carbon emissions

The RTPI maintains that spatial planning must play a ‘central role’ in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to changes in the climate.

This should be part of a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery from Covid-19. 

The call forms part of the institute’s response to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2020 Progress Report to Parliament. 


Mayor sets out plan to ‘reboot’ building in the capital

Fresh investment and a focus on the latest technology is required to get the housing sector building in London amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Mayor Sadiq Khan. 

Khan and professionals from the housing industry have also called for “significant” funding from the government to support affordable housing and modular housing.

RTPI: Permitted development will hit the vulnerable hardest

UK built environment professionals have written to the housing secretary expressing their concerns on the extension of permitted development rights (PDR) given the ‘divergent ways in which we have all experienced the Covid-19 pandemic’.

In the open letter, the RTPI, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) explain that further PDR “will lock in more unacceptable standard development, the consequences of which we will live with for generations or must rectify later at greater expense”.


Wales seeks to capitalise on the lessons learnt during pandemic

The Welsh Government has outlined how it plans to retain the positive changes that came about during the lockdown implemented to stem the spread of Covid-19 to build a society that ‘respects’ the environment.

The administration wishes to boost digital services where provision is poor and make sure that well-designed communities can “reap the benefits” of homeworking – such as reduced traffic and cleaner air. 

Building Better Places: The Planning System Delivering Resilient and Brighter Futures seeks to address a number of issues that have been highlighted by the pandemic, including changing working practices, active travel and green infrastructure. 


News analysis: How planning can address social inequality

As the UK entered lockdown on 23 March to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), there was a notion that we were 'all in this together'.

We left our homes only for food, medical reasons, to exercise once a day, or if we were key workers. The UK’s public parks, green spaces and gardens provided millions of adults and children with a place to exercise and a dose of daily green.

But were we, and are we, still all in this together?

Does the lockdown discriminate between those that have access to a garden or outdoor space and those that live in flat blocks who do not; those that have quick and easy access to a park and those who do not; and those who are in easy walking distance of grocery shops and those who rely on public transport, which people are recommended not to use.


Facilitate Magazine reports: Post-Covid environment will drive demand for flexible office space

Employees are keen to return to the office, reporting that they miss the human and social interaction that the office facilitates. 

At the same time, while employees show a strong affinity for the office, they also desire the ability to have the option to work from home one to two days a week on average, according to a recent JLL global study of 3,000 workers. 

The trend towards workplace mobility was not created as a result of the pandemic, but it was certainly accelerated by it. As a result, agile work strategies are expected to increase in a post-pandemic world, reinvigorating demand for flexible space.


Walking 'should be a priority' for new developments in Scotland

An open letter signed by 27 organisations has called for Scotland to 'walk back better' as society reshapes and recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisations including RTPI Scotland, Public Health Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage explain that they are working to ensure that walking and people are prioritised in the planning of national and local developments. 

Covid-19: 230,000 renters at risk of eviction when ban lifts

Shelter research suggests that around 227,000 adult private renters (3 per cent) have fallen into arrears since the start of the pandemic.

This means, Shelter explains, they could lose their homes when the evictions ban ends on 23 August. 

It's time to start planning for play

The experience of lockdown has shown Eleanor Gingell how much more we can be doing to create space for children within our built environments.


Planners and health professionals should work together on future development

There should be more cooperation and collaboration between professionals in the health and social care sector and planners so that the health needs of people and communities are integrated into all stages of creating new development.

That’s the conclusion of a new RTPI report, Enabling Healthy Placemaking. 

According to the report, both professions should work together through conceptualisation, design and planning stages of development, with planners acting as “visionaries in order to address the convergence of challenges around public health, climate emergency, and economic recovery” from Covid-19.

Government seeks to protect theatres from demolition

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has announced changes to the planning system aimed at protecting theatres, concert halls and live music venues from redevelopment and demolition. 

From next week, councils will need to take the temporary impact of Covid-19 into account when considering permission for change of use, redevelopment or demolition of a theatre, concert hall or live music venue, the government has announced. Social distancing should “not be an excuse for them [performance venues] to be permanently lost".


Building places people love – a new reality for planners and developers

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown are changing the way that people think about the places where they live. Planners and developers need to be able to respond to this new perspective, says Andrew Taylor.


Climate crisis compliance accountability needed

Planning decision-makers should be held to account when it comes to compliance with the climate change duty, according to a new report. 

This includes local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate.

Countryside charity CPRE wants to see a “radical rethink” of the role of the countryside in tackling the climate emergency. The countryside should be at the forefront of climate action so that rural communities “do not bear the brunt of the climate emergency”. 

Government extends affordable homes scheme 

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that the Affordable Homes Programme will be extended until March 2023.

This has been done, the government explained, because the creation of an estimated 53,000 affordable homes has been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown.

Planning during a pandemic - the CIL regime

Some form of CIL relief wiil go a long way to kickstarting development in the wake of Covid-19, says Julia Berry.


Sunak makes green jobs pledge

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £2 billion Green Homes Grant as part of his plan to protect jobs and prevent spiralling unemployment as the UK recovers from the effects of Covid-19. 

It is thought that the grant will support more than 100,000 green jobs.

The first phase of the economic response to Covid-19 was protection, the second is about jobs, and the third will be about rebuilding, explained the chancellor.

RTPI welcomes Sunak’s intentions for a green recovery

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hill has "cautiously" welcomed the chancellor’s commitments to help the built environment recover from Covid-19, but she argued that ‘strong planning will be needed to maximise all the investment’.

The expertise of planners and the power of the planning system, she warned, must be harnessed to “avoid a fragmented recovery which misses key opportunities to improve places for the most vulnerable in our society”.


Scotland’s chief planner and minister encourage relaxation of enforcement rules

Scottish chief planner John McNairney and the devolved government’s planning minister Kevin Stewart have written to the country’s planning authorities to outline the profession’s response to the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown. 

McNairney and Stewart explain that that planning’s “most appropriate, straightforward and efficient way” to allow reasonable temporary changes of use during this period is through informally relaxing planning controls. 

In particular, planning authorities should agree “not to take enforcement action against acceptable planning breaches that will allow for businesses to operate and for some normality to return to life within our communities”.

Planner Live Online: Planners should be at the centre of recovery

Planners are essential to support social and economic recovery post-Covid by guiding the long-term, sustainable development of neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

Local plans are necessary to provide a coherent framework for development that is attuned to local needs and agreed following consultation with local people. Moreover, planners’ skills may be critical to knitting together the different sectors and disciplines that can drive recovery within this locally agreed framework.

That was the broad conclusion of one of the final sessions of The Planner Live Online, ‘Planning for post Covid-19 economic and social recovery’, where three speakers made the case for planning against the backdrop of the government’s pledge to conduct a wholesale reform of the planning system with a focus on zoning and extended permitted development rights, particularly in town centres.


PAC: First remote hearing held 

The Planning Appeals Commission has conducted its first  remote hearing this week facilitated via the Sightlink platform in a move which confirmed that this is a  suitable method for conducting sessions where there are a small number of parties and issues. 

Northern Ireland Executive: New advice on social distancing in public places

The Department for Communities has published new guidance on measures to assist social distancing in public spaces.


Planner Live Online: Health considerations must drive post-Covid planning, say experts

A comprehensive rethink of the principles that drive planning will be necessary if we are to create healthier neighbourhoods, towns and cities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In particular, planners and other professionals need to step out of their working silos and work collaboratively and strategically with a primary focus on wellbeing as the key indicator of prosperity, rather than financial measures such as GDP.

That was the broad conclusion of the three speakers in The Planner Live Online’s inquiry into the relationship between health and placemaking, ‘New priorities for health and wellbeing – a function of place?’

Regenerate the countryside to regenerate the economy, says CPRE 

A countryside charity has called on the government to ensure that everyone has access to green space, after the early period of total lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 highlighted the inequalities surrounding who has access to it. 

The government should also support local councils and communities to deliver the right kind of development in the right place by insisting on up-to-date local plans.

Plans need to have “stronger and better implemented policies” on good design that contribute to tackling the climate and nature emergencies, according to the pressure group.

The calls were made as the CPRE launched its regeneration manifesto – Regenerate Our Countryside, Regenerate Ourselves: A Manifesto for a Resilient Countryside After Coronavirus.

It contends that the current situation offers the government a “once in a generation” opportunity to protect and invest in the countryside, and break down the barriers too many face in accessing the health and wellbeing benefits of time in green spaces.

Starmer calls for ‘new relationship’ between central and local government

Town halls should be given the powers to lead the response to coronavirus crisis and the rebuilding of the nation’s economy, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer told a virtual audience at the Local Government Association’s Annual Conference.

In the longer term, a “new relationship” between national and local government should give local councils and communities more powers to make decisions on planning and housing – as well as proper representation in a revamped second parliamentary chamber.

While stressing support for some aspects of the government’s approach to containing the Covid-19 epidemic, including the principles of lockdown and the furlough scheme, Starmer was nevertheless highly critical of much of the government’s management of the crisis.

Government to publish devolution white paper this year

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that a recovery and devolution white paper will be published later this year.

Speaking at the LGA virtual annual conference today (2 July), he said that the government is “building today the foundations for future prosperity tomorrow, raising our sights to when we are fully independent self-governing country for the first time in 45 years”.
As Brexit shifts power from Brussels to Whitehall, there is an opportunity to shift power from Whitehall.

“The prime minister has asked me to publish our recovery and devolution paper later this year. It sets out an ambitious plan, which will be a placed-based regional economic strategy, one which helps us to kick-start the recovery and to level up.”

Homes are where the hearts are: How planning can regain the public’s trust

Planning should be at the heart of rebuilding the economy, rebalancing the country and building the homes we need, says Robin Shepherd. But first it needs to earn back public trust. How?

We are in the midst of both a pandemic and a national housing crisis – but only one of these has been going on for decades. Despite many strong efforts and good intentions, we have routinely failed to deliver either the quantity or quality of homes that the nation needs. We must not let the post-Covid slump distract us from the pressing need to build more homes.


Mixed views on the prime minister’s Covid-19 recovery plan

Professionals across the built environment sector have broadly welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to reform the planning system in a bid to help the country recover from Covid-19, but some have cautioned against further deregulation.

- RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills: "Planners working in a stable planning system are well placed to drive this investment to ensure we begin constructing the homes, hospitals, schools, digital and transport infrastructure in the right places for communities whilst also achieving our national carbon net-zero targets for a green recovery."

- Stuart Andrews, Eversheds Sutherland: "Relaxing permitted development rights might look a simple solution, but it isn’t a plan and where we have seen this of late it has only served to deliver the slums not just of the future, but of the moment. As ever, planning reform is the art of unforeseen consequences."

- Roger Tustain, Nexus Planning: "Before we change the technical side of the system itself (again), it’d be better to focus on significantly enhancing public sector resourcing in strategic planning – ‘freeing the planner’ from minor/domestic applications, which accounts for a huge number of all applications and can get overly politicised. Local authority planning needs to be visionary and proactive at both political and officer level. At present, things tend to be far too reactive and under-resourced."


Johnson outlines plans to change the use classes order

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out new regulations that will see buildings and land changing use without planning permission, with a policy paper due in July outlining how ‘England’s seven-decade-old planning system will be reformed for modern society’.

Under the new rules, existing commercial properties, such as newly vacant shops, would be “more easily” converted into housing. The measures are aimed at making it easier to create new homes and regenerate vacant buildings.

These measures form part of his government’s plan to level up the country and help the UK recover from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic – to “build back better, build back greener, build back faster”.

Planner Live Online: PINS CEO speaks of lockdown challenges

The chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has spoken of the organisation’s response under lockdown in a Planner Live Online interview. Speaking to RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills, Sarah Richards said that PINS had started its pandemic planning back in February. 

Planner Live Online: Local control over transport spending will accelerate a green recovery

Local authorities should not have to be competing for small pots of ring-fenced money within a fragmented transport funding landscape.

Instead, they should be given the funding and freedom to formulate coherent local transport strategies and spend where needed – leading to more cost-effective, time-saving and greener local transport scenarios.

That was the emphatic message from Tuesday morning’s ‘Transport for a green recovery’ session at The Planner Live Online, chaired by the RTPI's policy and networks manager James Harris. Indeed, the session’s three speakers were, in Harris's words, in “violent agreement” that the future of transport should be sustainable and it should be local.

“Why would central government get involved at all in local public transport?” asked an almost despairing Jonathan Bray, against a backdrop of the prime minister simultaneously announcing cash for ‘shovel-ready' local transport projects. “If they were good at it, great. But I’m not sure national government’s record compares with devolved authorities when they have the freedom to do that.”


Planners are pivotal to sustainable Covid-19 recovery 

RTPI president Sue Manns has launched an institute campaign that aims to raise the ‘vital’ awareness of the role planners have in every respect of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

This includes reviving the economy, tackling inequality and meeting the UK’s net-zero 2050 target. The institute wants governments in the UK and Ireland to capitalise on planners’ expertise to address these challenges. 

The campaign – Plan the World We Need – was launched on 29 June at the first day of the Planner Live Online.

Planner Live Online: Covid-19 exposes the risks in the built environment

The causes of poor health outcomes in the built environment are well known, an audience at an RTPI webinar has heard, but what is needed are the resources to address poor health and a wide range of professions need to be part of the discussions intended to achieve this.

‘The risks exposed’ was one of many sessions organised by the RTPI to be held during this week to consider planning post Covid-19 pandemic.

In this session Araceli Carmargo, cognitive neuroscientist and founder of The Centric Lab, and Dr Riëtte Oosthuizen, partner at HTA Design, outlined the issues and challenges that Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated – and how planners can address these as part of the recovery.


How will coronavirus change transport planning?

The Covid-19 crisis is prompting councils to ‘reallocate’ road space to encourage active travel and enable pedestrians to get around safely. Measures are temporary but, asks Simon Wicks, does this herald a new approach to transport planning in towns and cities?

Planning for a green recovery in Scotland

Recovery from pandemic presents ann opportunity to reset Scotland's economy, with a focus on welllbeing, climate and nature, argues Kate Bellew.

National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) will set a route map for how development and infrastructure is delivered in Scotland over the next decade.

Planning and investment decisions made now and over the period of NPF4 could drive not only our economic response to Covid-19, but also shape the infrastructure that will be in place in 2045, the deadline for Scotland’s net-zero emissions target.


Interim chief planner issues update on neighbourhood planning (pdf)

Dr Michael Bingham OBE has written to local planning authority chief planners to update them on the financial support available for neighbourhood planning in 2020/21.

As in 2019/20, eligible claims include rates for claiming neighbourhood planning grant where a made plan has been modified. This reflects changes in types of modification that were introduced through the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, the interim chief planner explains. 

Normally, local planning authorities were eligible to enter claims for neighbourhood planning support relating to activity undertaken in the current 2020/21 financial year only. 

"However, we will allow claims relating to 2019/20 activity if these could not be submitted due to the Covid-19 emergency."

Read the letter in full here on the UK Government website (pdf).

Heritage funding deadline extended

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has announced that the deadline to apply for emergecy grants has been extended to the end of July.

The £50 million Heritage Emergency Fund was set up late in April to help the UK’s heritage survive the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Hundreds of grants have been awarded, which seek to address immediate pressures for those most in need. However, when their existing business model may no longer be fit for purpose, heritage organisations still face significant challenges.

Grants have supported heritage organisations with essential costs to keep them afloat, including core staff wages and utility bills. They can now also be used start the recovery process, which may include new operating and business plans, investing in digital, or the costs of reopening.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “This is still a time of great change and uncertainty for heritage organisations, and we are with them in heart and mind right now as they take uncertain steps back into a fast-changing world. We are keen to help them in planning for the recovery that is so vital for heritage, its people and communities.”

More information about eligibility and applying can be found on the National Lottery Heritage Fund website. 


Covid-19: Planning expiry deadlines extended

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced planning permission deadlines will be extended as the government puts in place measures to support the construction industry and ‘boost building’.

Planning permission expires after three years if work has not started onsite, but under this measure, permissioned sites that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown (23 March) and the end of this year will now see their consent extended to 1 April 2021.

The RTPI has repeatedly called for the expiration date of planning permissions during lockdown to be addressed. Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, welcomed the measures. 

Deregulate use class system to aid high street recovery, says retail guru

The use class system should be deregulated and local authorities given the opportunity to develop an 'appropriate proposition' to attract people to live, work and play in towns, suggests a report.

Bill Grimsey, former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland, has published Build Back Better: Covid-19 Supplement for Town Centres, which states that if town centres and high streets are to “thrive” after the Covid-19 pandemic and rediscover their community purpose, there needs to be localism, leadership – and fewer cars and more green space.

Covid-19: Councils call for 100,000 social homes a year to aid recovery

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for councils to be given the powers to build thousands of ‘desperately needed’ council homes to ‘spearhead’ the recovery from Covid-19.

Post-pandemic, 100,000 affordable homes are needed to provide housing for key workers and the families of those who lost their lives to the virus. This would also address the downturn in construction because of the virus as housebuilders closed their sites, the LGA argues. 

Such a programme would also benefit the economy, help the government to achieve its target to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, and alleviate pressures on health and social care that result from poor housing conditions, according to the LGA.


UK Government: Support for shops and local businesses

The UK Government has extended measures to prevent struggling companies from eviction over the summer.

The extension, until the end of September, comes alongside further support to help local businesses plan for economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.  


Public Practice recruits to boost local authority capacity

Public Practice has issued a call for applications for a new cohort of professionals to start placements at local authorities in December.

This is the fifth drive for a cohort of associates. The built environment professionals will work on a year-long placement in the planning departments of local authorities and other public sector bodies, such as NHS trusts.

Public Practice is seeking applicants with experience in economic development, community engagement, civil engineering, housing delivery and urban health. Associates would be helping authorities tackle the long-term social and economic impacts of Covid-19. These skills are sought in addition to continued demand for planning, urban design, landscape, heritage and environmental expertise.


Mallon outlines outdoor trade arrangements

Nichola Mallon, Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister, has written to all councils asking them to temporarily take a “flexible and pragmatic” planning approach to the use of on-street seating for cafés and bars, beer gardens and similar outdoor areas to accommodate physical/social distancing.

Planning permission will not be required for the temporary positioning of chairs and tables on the pavement outside of pubs, cafés and other similar establishments. But she stressed that each case and situation would be different and should be considered on its merits.


Ox-Cam Arc a ‘perfect’ opportunity to invest in nature 

As plans are under way to deliver one million homes across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, conservation organisations have urged the government to look at this as the perfect opportunity to invest in nature.

Such an investment would improve people’s lives and contribute to a green recovery from coronavirus (Covid-19), say the groups. 

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire (WTBCN); Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT); the RSPB; and the Woodland Trust have jointly published Nature’s Arc principles, a blueprint for restoring and increasing nature across the arc. 

It comes as a recent RSPB and YouGov survey highlights the public support for protecting and investing in nature as part of the recovery from process Covid-19.

The organisations explained that their principles emphasise the importance of access to nature and natural green space for the health, wellbeing, wealth and resilience of people and communities. 

Number of applications for planning permission rises 

As lockdown measures implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) have begun to ease, the volume of planning applications submitted to the Planning Portal has started to grow. 

The Planner reported in May that planning applications of all types fell on average by 3.5 per cent in March and 18.5 per cent in April in England and Wales.

As people were allowed to move around a bit more in May and some furloughed staff returned to work, the Planning Portal's Planning Market Insider Report shows that figures for May were 14 per cent below expected levels. 

‘Difficult’ time for Scottish heritage sector

A survey of Scotland’s heritage sector has shown the effect the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has had on it as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) sets out a plan for its recovery.  

A wide range of businesses, organisations, social enterprises and voluntary groups across the sector responded to the survey (265 responses), which was conducted to understand the implications the pandemic is having.

It found 78 per cent have experienced either a loss or postponement of work and revenue due to the current pandemic.


No shortcuts: Restarting outdoor work amid the risk of Covid-19

Ecological consultants are being encouraged to return to outdoor surveying and supervision. But firms must understand the full range of Covid-related risks and reflect that in risk assessments, says Ben Kite.

Glasgow Herald reports: Aberdeen hotel outlines social distancing adaptations

Transparent  “igloos”  and a twenty-metre open-sided marquee form part of Aberdeen’s Chester Hotel proposals to adapts  to social-distancing. 

Glasgow Herald

Irish Examiner reports: Cork pedestrianisation pause

The pedestrianisation of three Cork city centre streets to facilitate social distancing could take another two weeks to implement after objections were raised.

High Streets Task Force issues update

The High Streets Task Force has launched a range of tools, training, information and advice for high streets across England as part of the government’s efforts to reopen safely and support their recovery.

This support is open to local councils and all organisations involved with high streets and includes free access to online training programmes, webinars, data and intelligence on topics including recovery planning and coordination, public space and place marketing.


Temporary changes to planning rules come into force in Cheltenham

Cheltenham Borough Council is accelerating applications for temporary changes to the use of public areas and private land to help businesses to recover from the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The changes are intended to make it easier for businesses to accommodate more physical space to ensure that social distancing can be adhered to – including being able to place tables and chairs on a footpath or public square. 

Second emergency fund launched to protect heritage

Historic England has launched a second emergency fund to support the heritage sector’s recovery from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The £3 million Heritage at Risk Response Fund will provide grants to those who look after some of England’s “most significant” historic sites.

It will go towards the cost of urgent maintenance, repairs and investigations, such as damaged roofs, to hire scaffolding and commission surveys. 

Grants of up to £25,000 will be offered to fix urgent problems at sites that are normally visited by the public, so they can reopen as soon as possible, in line with Covid-19 restrictions.

Covid-19: West Midlands sets out plans for a green recovery

The board of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has given the go-ahead to a blueprint that seeks to mitigate the effects of coronavirus (Covid-19) on the region with a green recovery. 

WM2041: A Programme for Implementing an Environmental Recovery builds on an existing commitment - #WM2041 - to make the West Midlands carbon neutral by 2041.

It outlines how the region can rebuild its economy in a green and inclusive way so its diverse communities and its environment can benefit. The initiatives set out in the blueprint range in scale and complexity, and will be implemented over different timescales. 


What the coronavirus pandemic can teach us about planning for healthy places

Lockdown offers a chance to rethink the way we plan our streets and neighbourhoods - and to make them much healthier places, argues Sarah Smith.


News report: Government's housing targets lie in tatters

Covid-19 will shatter government housing delivery targets and require further planning reforms to kick-start development, says Huw Morris.

Two significant studies point to the extent of the crisis. The first, by Knight Frank, warns that private housing delivery in 2020 will be lower than in the years after the global financial crash of 2007-09. The knock-on effect of the Covid-19 lockdown will mean 56,000 fewer homes delivered this year, a fall of 35 per cent. Nationally, the figure will be around 104,000 this year.

Barton Willmore predicts a “sizeable slowdown” in housing delivery in 2020. Net additional homes will drop from last year’s post-financial crisis high of 244,000 to around 160,000 in 2020/21 – a fall of 84,000.

Uptick in Scotland’s affordable homes target will help Covid-19 recovery

The next Scottish Government should pledge to deliver 53,000 affordable homes over the next Parliament to reduce housing need, tackle child poverty and ‘kick-start’ the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

The call comes today from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Shelter Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland.

The groups also want the next Scottish Government to commit to a capital investment programme of £3.4 billion over five years. 


Steve Quartermain on Covid-19, permitted development and local plans

Steve Quartermain, former chief planner at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), says having an up-to-date plan in place is key to avoiding the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and that opportunities opened up due to coronavirus (Covid-19) must be built on now.

‘In Conversation with’ was a webinar organised by Civic Voice, in which Kevin Trickett MBE, president of Wakefield Civic Society, posed questions about local plans, permitted development and the green belt. 

The Planner was listening. Check out the full article to find out what the former chied planner had to say.

Emergency Covid-19 grants to help heritage projects unveiled

Historic England has announced that 70 projects will receive a share of £1.8 million to help to tackle the impact of Covid-19 on the heritage sector. 

The grants will help to provide social distancing guidance for archaeologists during digs to support for voluntary organisations and craft works, such as stonemasons. 

Facilitate Magazine reports: The final piece of the puzzle

In a post-pandemic workplace, aiming for 50 per cent occupancy levels is a realistic goal, listeners of a workplace webinar heard last week.

In the Worktech webinar, Returning to the New Normal: The Impact on the Workforce, The Workplace and Real Estate, Paul Statham, CEO of Condeco, said that from many years of research and gathering data, his organisation has seen businesses underuse their workspaces. 

Traditionally, buildings have been designed for the 80 per cent – those that want to come to the office for some of the time, usually on a Monday. However, after the “Monday spike”, usually from Tuesday lunchtime onwards, occupancy drops to 30-60 per cent. Statham argued that 50 per cent occupancy levels are “very achievable” for companies that can manage the Monday spike through flexible and home-based working. 


Planning Inspectorate Wales: Updates on appeals case work published

Planning Inspectorate Wales has published an update on its appeals work which highlights  it is unable to handle new appeals for nearly half 
the country’s 23 councils and national park authorities. This includes the capital, as well as Wrexham, Carmarthenshire, the Isle of Anglesey and Monmouthshire councils plus the Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast NPAs.

Northern Ireland Executive: Derry walkabout and bike initiative

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon has announced the implementation of new walking and cycling measures along the riverfront in Derry City.

Belfast Telegraph reports: Post-lockdown capital will be bustling but different

Belfast will emerge from lockdown as a "different but bustling city" with an emphasis on sustainability and investment in opening public spaces, according to Suzanne Wylie, the chief executive of the city council.

Planning Appeals Commission: Update issued

The Planning Appeals Commission has announced that having  concentrated initially on new appeals it is now able to write to parties setting out revised arrangements for the submission of evidence on cases already under consideration by the commission when the pandemic was declared.

UK Government: Ban on rental evictions extended

Renters across England and Wales will receive greater protection after the government extended the suspension of new evictions until 23 August.

Ministers are also working with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, which will mean that courts are better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties, including those shielding from coronavirus. 


Scottish Government issues new advice as planning faces ease in Covid-19 lockdown

Scottish planning minister Kevin Stewart and chief planner John McNairney have written to councils committing to publishing an interim position statement on the draft National Planning Framework (NPF) 4 this autumn.

This will:

  • update on evidence gathered in early 2020;
  • explain how NPF4 will align with other government strategies;
  • set out an overview of the key challenges, opportunities and potential policy changes for NPF4; and
  • reflect on the effects of Covid-19 and what NPF4 can do to help societal and economic recovery.

Are we the Goodies in this episode?

“G – you need a helping hand, O - you know we’ll understand, O – we’re with you right to the end, Everyone needs a friend, Goody, Goody, Goody…” In the words of The Goodies, and by way of a tribute to the late Tim Brooke-Taylor, it seems that some of us will do anything, anywhere, anytime.

Democracy shouldn't suffer just because the show must go on

In the rush to keep the planning system operational during the Covid-19 epidemic, planners risk overlooking one very important element, says Lucinda Rogers - the people the system is supposed to serve.

My view on... responding to the Covid-19 pandemic

In west Wales, senior planner Russell Hughes-Pickering is looking at opportunities created by the lockdown.

By and large, in Ceredigion we’ve been able to continue dealing with planning applications and accepting new applications that are received electronically. We do have a couple of challenges in terms of planning committees and neighbour consultations, but we’re trying to avoid a situation where a backlog builds up so we can be in a good position when we get back to the new normal. We want to be able to help businesses and others who need to get their applications through, rather than dealing with a backlog of smaller applications.


Sizewell C application submitted after two-month Covid-19 delay

EDF Energy has applied for a development consent order (DCO) to build the Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk after a two-month delay owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

EDF Energy said it would introduce extra measures to make it easier for local communities to scrutinise the DCO application, including extending the pre-examination period to allow more time for interested parties to register with the Planning Inspectorate.

The scheme aims to generate enough energy to keep nearly six million homes powered with low-carbon electricity.

Recovery plan: What impact will Covid-19 have on planning for housing and neighbourhooods?

In the first of three articles considering the impacts of the coronavirus on the way we plan our living environments, Simon Wicks asks whether a different approach to housing and public realm could provide greater resilience in a health crisis.


Campaign launched to put music centre stage for urban recovery

A campaign has been launched to ensure music is at the heart of recovery and resilience plans in towns and cities around the world.

Sound Diplomacy - specialists in strategies for music and the night-time economy to deliver economic, cultural and social growth - said the Covid-19 pandemic had shown music was a global unifier, from balconies across Europe to live-streaming from bedrooms. But it said music lacks investment.

“There are few music offices in cities around the world, music education is in decline while many relief programmes to support creatives are challenging for musicians to access,” said Sound Diplomacy founder Shain Shapiro. “In some countries, there are little intellectual property protections for musicians, yet we all need music.”

RICS calls for step-change in retrofitting housing 

The government must make a step-change in policies for decarbonising the UK’s existing housing stock as part of a resilient recovery from Covid-19.

The call, in a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) policy paper, highlights how government incentives can promote positive consumer behaviour while supporting more people to consider making their homes energy efficient as they spend more time at home.


News analysis: How sites visits are being conducted during Covid-19

Visiting potential sites for development is one of the final steps in processing a planning application, so how has coronavirus (Covid-19) affected the way building control professionals go about ensuring works comply with building regulations?

What happened to planning officer site visits in the wake of the government enforced a lockdown to stem the spread of the virus on 23 March? The Planner spoke to Trafford Council, Lichfield District Council, Plymouth City Council, the RTPI and LABC to find out.

Northern Irish councils call for funding boost to aid stricken high streets

Councils across Northern Ireland are urging the Executive to provide more financial support to help high streets, hospitality organisations and the cultural sector to get back to business. 

The issue was discussed this week by Stormont’s Economy Committee, which took joint evidence from the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives NI (SOLACE).

Glasgow Herald reports: Finnieston ‘glass house’ roof revealed

Proposals have surfaced for the construction of a £1 million ‘glass house’ over a section of Argyle Street at Finnieston in Glasgow’s West End, which would allow adjacent bars and restaurants to re-open under social distancing measures. 

Irish Government: Planning regime reverts to normal

The planning regime is getting back to normal this week  with pre-Covoid-19  public participation timelines back in force and An Bord Pleanála's office at 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1 reverting to full public opening hours again, 9.15am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday. 


'Unprecedented' plans to house rough sleepers outlined

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has set out plans to provide long-term homes for those sleeping rough in

England who have been taken off the streets during the coronvirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The plans will be backed by £433 million of government funding, with £160 million going towards delivering 3,300 homes over the next 12 months. 


Welsh Government: £22m boost for transport projects

Welsh transport minister Ken Skates has announced £22.6 million will be allocated to 21 projects across 15 local authorities to enable improvement in economic activity, improve access to employment, encourage healthier travel modes and connect communities.

He said: "These grants stand as a substantial investment to improve local public transport provision and support local economic growth as we work to aid the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic."

New Ross Standard reports: South East Greenway stays on track

The 24-kilometre South East Greenway connecting New Ross with Waterford is "on track" to be completed in late 2021, one of only a handful of similar projects not to have been delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Irish Times reports: Cork pedestrianization progress

Cork is pressing ahead with proposals to pedestrianize many of its streets and provide additional cycling facilities as part of the  city’s strategy aimed at facilitating social distancing as the Republic’s second biggest city  emerges from the Covid-19 lock-down. 

Northern Ireland Executive: Pedestrianisation initiatives planned for Belfast, Derry and Newry

The first in a wave of planned pedestrianisation initiatives to support the province’s recovery from Covoid-19 has been announced by the Department for Infrastructure, with schemes trialled in Belfast and Derry and shortly expected in Newry. The measures are designed to be low-cost, experimental and will target changes in travel to boost walking and cycling and easing pressure on public transport.

Eastern Daily Press reports: Boreas windfarm potentially delayed by five months

A major windfarm development planned off the Norfolk coast has been told it may be delayed by up to five months. The Planning Inspectorate said  that the examination of the plan would take longer than expected given the coronavirus outbreak.


Higher emergency grants offered to heritage sector

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is welcoming applications for larger grants to cover emergency costs during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  

The organisation wants past and current recipients to apply for grants between £50,000 and £250,000. This is in addition to the £3,000 to £50,000 grants that were launched in mid-April.

These new grants are available to cover essential costs for up to four months and to begin the work needed for long-term re-emergence from the crisis.


Covid-19 triggers changes for pre-application consultation on major Welsh developments

New regulations came into force in Wales this week in respect of pre-application consultation for major development as well as Developments of National Significance.

The amendment order effectively restarts the pre-application consultation process, removing the barriers preventing successful completion, while introducing safeguards to guarantee that the revised process is as inclusive as possible.

The requirement to make information available for inspection at a location in the vicinity of the proposed development has been temporarily withdrawn for the duration of the emergency, which currently is expected to last until 18 September.

Instead developers must make all the information available on a website and send hard copies of documents to any person who requests it.

Policy brought in to protect Hertsmere employment sites

An article 4 direction has come into force to protect some of Hertsmere’s major employment sites, a measure that could help the borough to recover economically from the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.

Developers must now seek planning permission to convert any buildings into housing across 13 significant employment sites in Borehamwood, Elstree, Potters Bar, Bushey, Radlett and Shenley.

Before now, permitted development rights meant offices, light industrial and storage or distribution buildings could be converted into housing without applying for permission to the council.

Hertsmere Borough Council agreed the article 4 direction at an executive meeting more than a year ago, and then held a period of public consultation on the planning policy changes.

Dr Harvey Cohen, a councillor in the borough, said: “Given the current coronavirus crisis, we felt it was important that these new article 4 directions should now come into effect. “It’s our ongoing aim that local planning rules safeguard businesses and jobs, but it’s especially important now to protect our commercial heartlands, as they will be vital for Hertsmere’s economic bounce-back following lockdown."

UK Government: Future Fund launches today

The government’s £500 million Future Fund has opened for applications today (20 May) with innovative and high-growth British businesses able to secure investment to help them through the Coronavirus outbreak.


New railways and roads needed to help Northern Powerhouse recover

Funding major transport and connectivity infrastructure improvements across the north of England can help the region – and the UK – to recover from coronavirus (Covid-19) and level up the country.

These are two of five proposals set out by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership that it believes will help the government to rebalance the economy. 


Sturgeon asked to outline housebuilding recommencement

Homes for Scotland has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to request a phased return to work to enable the country’s housebuilders to put the ‘finishing touches to around 6,000 largely completed homes’.

The homes nearing completion are worth in excess of £1 billion to the economy, said the trade representative body for Scotland’s homebuilders. 

In a letter to Sturgeon, Homes for Scotland says the industry has addressed the issues relating to the safe operation of construction sites, as well as sales offices.

UK Government: £35 million investment to protect critical freight routes

The UK Government has announced a £35 million into "vital" freight routes into, out of and around the UK to ensure they continue to run smoothly and critical goods, such as food and medical supplies, can move freely.

The government has signed agreements with six operators to provide up to £35 million to help ensure there is enough freight capacity to prevent disruption to the flow of goods.

The decision has been made to protect 16 of the most important routes covering the Channel, the Short Strait, the North Sea and routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland which were previously at risk of closure due to a drop in demand as a result of coronavirus. They will now be designated as Public Service Obligation routes for a period of up to nine weeks.

Written statement: Grant Shapps

In a written ministerial statement, transport secretary Grant Shapps outlines the funding package given to Transport for London (TfL). 


NPF4 should be a route map for 'a different Scotland' after Covid-19 pandemic, says RTPI Scotland

RTPI Scotland has formally responded to the Scottish Government’s call for ideas on its new National Planning Framework (NPF4), setting out 10 ‘Big Ideas’ to help guide its format, shape and content.

The institute says the forthcoming NPF4 should include “a long-term vision to promote active and sustainable travel, prioritise climate action and champion decision-making to promote the wellbeing of future generations”.

A need exists to agree on what constitutes a new normal and on the steps required to achieve it, said RTPI Scotland convenor Irene Beautyman.

PINS to start visiting sites

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) will begin visiting sites again now the government has signalled it can in a written ministerial statement following the easing of lockdown restrictions amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Earlier this week, housing secretary Robert Jenrick wrote: “Where site visits are required or necessary, they should be undertaken in line with the government’s guidance on social distancing and safety requirements.

“The Planning Inspectorate will be restarting site visits from mid-May. The government supports the inspectorate’s determination to facilitate site visits. It will expect inspectors to use their judgement in deciding if a site visit is necessary or whether alternative approaches are acceptable, taking account of the particular circumstances.”

Welsh Government: Ministers call for Covoid-19 transport initiatives

The Welsh Government has urged local authorities to submit proposals to transform Wales’s transport system with measures such as bus lanes, park-and-ride facilities, temporary cycle lanes, pavement widening and speed restrictions, all of which  would improve the conditions for sustainable and active travel during the Covoid-19 emergency.

The Irish Times reports: College Green moves

Dublin’s College Green is set to be pedestrianised – and cars restricted throughout much of the city after 11a.m. – under plans to reopen the city centre as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Under these moves cafes and restaurants would be allowed put more tables and chairs outdoors

Northern Ireland Executive: Walking and cycling czar lined up

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon has announced a new walking and cycling ’czar’ who will focus on transforming communities and developing creative solutions during and post Covid-19 including “identifying and creating ‘quiet streets’ where pedestrians, cyclists and play have priority and motor vehicles are guests.”  


RTPI welcomes MHCLG guidance but is concerned about permission expiry

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) latest planning measures to keep the English system moving during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic have been welcomed by the RTPI, but the institute remains concerned that expiring planning permissions have not been addressed.

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said the measures were “positive and pragmatic” but she wants to see MHCLG issue guidance on site visits as well address the need for extended planning permissions.

“An RTPI survey conducted at the beginning of lockdown revealed that the majority of our members were overwhelmingly concerned with ensuring planning continues to deliver during the pandemic, with the majority supporting the use of digital hearings, inquiries and local review bodies and plan examinations. So, on that basis, we welcome the government’s latest announcements which will ensure this.

“However, we remain concerned that the issue of planning permissions due to expire during the lockdown has not yet been addressed. We have repeatedly called for this to be urgently addressed and repeat that call now. Our members have also said they require further guidance on site visits.”

This story alos includes reaction from the National Federation of Builders; the Federation of Master Builders; and Irwin Mitchell.

Jenrick updates the country on construction and planning

Giving the daily government briefing on Covid-19 yesterday (13 May), housing secretary Robert Jenrick spoke about the measures the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCG) has put in place to get the construction industry back on site and enable the planning system to continue functioning in England.

Application submissions fall in England and Wales

Data shows that planning applications of all types fell on average by 3.5 per cent in March and 18.5 per cent in April in England and Wales.

This is one of the key findings in the Planning Portal’s first Planning Market Insight Report.

Planning Portal said the restrictions placed on personal movement and businesses to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) have had a “significant impact” on the planning and construction industries. 


MHCLG update Covid-19 guidance for planning in England

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has issued updated guidance to ensure that the planning system in England can ‘play its full part’ in the national and local economic recovery to come after the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The advice follows stakeholder feedback the ministry has received since the last chief planner’s newsletter, published on 23 March.

Current public health guidelines have had a “profound impact” on how local planning authorities operate, the ministry acknowledged.

“We understand the pressure that authorities are under, and the importance of practical measures which can ease the impact as well as support the wider efforts to keep the country running. It is important to keep the planning system moving as much as we can, so that it is able to play its full part in the economic recovery to come, at both national and local levels.”

Guidance has been provided on CIL, determination scales, publicity and consultation, and local plans. 

Jenrick sets out guidance for construction

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced several measures to get England building following a period of lockdown and inactivity on construction sites. 

Builders will be able to agree more flexible working hours with local councils. This includes staggering worker arrival times to ease pressure on public transport.

Scottish planners fear ‘inevitable’ fall in application fees

Scotland’s top local authority planners have warned that the Covid-19 emergency is threatening planning services because fewer applications will inevitably mean less of the fee income on which planning authorities rely.

That is the worrying prognosis voiced in the latest blog from the Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) executive.

HOPS will carry out a survey next month to track application numbers and the income for local authorities.

It warns: “As the number of applications will inevitably decrease over the next few months, there will be a knock-on effect in fee income.

"Planning authorities rely on fee income to function so this combined with the postponement of the expected fee increase in June means there may be longer-term effects on the system.

“The HOPS position remains that the planning system needs to be appropriately resourced to function for all parties.” 


West Midlands outlines priorities for Covid-19 recovery

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has outlined 10 priorities for the region's economic recovery after the coronavirus (Covid-19). 

Political and business leaders have endorsed the 10 priorities, upon which the West Midlands will draw up its own recovery plan.

The task force comprises experts from across the region’s public, private and academic sectors. The plan will aim to build a better, greener and more inclusive economy.

Facilitate Magazine reports: Government publishes new safet guidance for workplace

Employers should redesign workspaces to maintain two-metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

The changes form part of the ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidelines published by the government yesterday (11 May).

The guidelines cover eight workplace settings including construction, offices and contact centres, factories, plants and warehouses and shops.

UK Government: Guidance published to ensure transport network is safe for those who need to use it

Guidance has been published by the UK Government on how passengers should make journeys safely, following the publication of the government’s roadmap and strategy for the next phase of the pandemic. 

Even as public transport begins to revert to a full service, the two-metre social distancing rule would only leave effective capacity for one in 10 passengers on many parts of the network.

The advice sets out that if people who cannot work from home and have to travel for work, they should first consider alternatives to public transport. It urges people to consider cycling, walking or driving to help ensure there is enough capacity for those who need to travel on public transport to do so safely. Those driving their own cars have been asked to avoid busy areas.

For those who have to use public transport, the guidance for passengers on how to travel safely recommends:

  • keeping 2 metres apart from others wherever possible;
  • wearing a face covering if you can;
  • using contactless payment where possible;
  • avoiding rush hour travel where feasible;
  • washing or sanitising your hands as soon as possible before and after travel; and
  • following advice from staff and being considerate to others.


England to get pop-up cycle lanes ‘within weeks’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced that £250 million will be invested in creating pop-up cycle lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions and cycle and bus-only corridors in England.

The government said these would be delivered “within weeks”.

The emergency active travel fund forms the first stage of a £2 billion investment that is part of the £5 billion of new funding announced for cycling and buses in February, explained the government.

Levels of walking and cycling have increased during the coronavirus (Covd-19) pandemic, after the government told people to avoid public transport and stay at home to control spread of the virus. The government wants to enact these plans to encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport as well make healthier habits easier.

It will work with local authorities across England to make it easier for people to cycle – including Greater Manchester, which wants to create 150 miles of protected cycle track, and Transport for London. 

Facilitate Magazine reports: Government states that 'working from home should continue wherever possible'

Workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible, the government has said in its new Covid-19 recovery strategy. 

'Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’ states that workers working from home “will help minimise the number of social contacts across the country and therefore keep transmissions as low as possible”. 

"People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places. 

"All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories."

Facilitate Magazine reports: CIBSE publishes guides for safe reoccupation of building  

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) has published various documents addressing a number of issues that must be considered for the safe reoccupation of buildings.

CIBSE Covid Emerging from Lockdown: Safely Re-occupying Buildings is intended to give business owners and managers an outline of the main areas to be considered concerning both safe working practices and the assessment of building services.

The advice in CIBSE Covid Ventilation Guidance is for building owners/managers and operators when reopening buildings following a period of inactivity and considering the requirements for the ventilation system. 

Facilitate Magazine reports: Many workers anxious about returning to offices post-lockdown

Many UK employees are concerned about the health implications of returning to the office post-lockdown.  

Among office-based employees who are working from home during the coronavirus, 59 per cent are worried about being able to maintain social distancing, and nearly half (44 per cent) are concerned about hygiene and cleaning standards in the office.

The YouGov poll, for the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, surveyed office workers across the country to reveal that over a third (34 per cent) are concerned about getting used to a corporate office culture again after the lockdown.


Latest NI Covid-19 planning update highlights flexible committees and greater delegation

Northern Ireland’s chief planner Angus Kerr’s latest update (no 6) highlights that new regulations on local authority committee meetings are now in force. 

The Local Government (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of District Council Meetings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 came into effect on 1 May 2020. These allow district councils to hold meetings remotely by telephone conferencing, videoconferencing, live webcast and live interactive streaming.

The regulations apply to all councils and all council meetings, including committee or sub-committee meetings, executive meetings and meetings of joint committees of two or more councils.

Pedestrianisation in prospect as Cork plots post-Covid-19 strategy

A number of narrow and historic high-footfall streets in Cork city are set to be pedestrianised to help the city reopen as Covid-19 restrictions

Paul Street, Tuckey Street and Pembroke Street will be closed to traffic and pedestrianisation measures will be enhanced to ensure that physical distancing can be maintained. This will involve the removal of some car parking, the relocation of disabled parking bays, and the removal of bollards.

The Marina riverside amenity, about three kilometres downriver of the city centre, will be closed to all vehicular traffic for the summer.

PAC: Office to reopen next week

The offices of the Planning Appeals Commission in  Park House, Belfast will reopen on 11 May but only during the morning for the immediate future.

All arrangements for hearings are currently suspended. PAC has published a guidance note on how it will progress its casework during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Pinsent Masons: Lawyers highlight planning permission deadline problems

Nicholle Kingsley and Jennifer Craske from legal firm Pinsent Masons have voiced concern that despite industry pressure on the UK Government some planning deadlines in England and Wales have not yet been adjusted to take account of the Covid-19 lockdown.

They highlighted issues to do with keeping planning permissions alive and compliance with planning conditions.

They argued that “top of the list” should be the automatic extension of planning permissions about to expire either through the approach adopted in Scotland or by using the framework already utilised during the 2008 economic recession.

Lobby group urges flexible rural plans (external)

Greater flexibility and a rural focus in the planning system is required if rural communities are to thrive in the future as Covid-19 takes its toll, rural businesses lobby Scottish Land & Estates has argued in its response to the Scotish Government’s call for ideas on the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF 4).


CCC says adapting to climate crisis ‘integral’ to UK recovery

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has set out six principles that the leaders of the UK should follow to rebuild the nation after the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

In letters to Prime Minister Borish Johnson, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford and Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, the committee say a recovery package should deliver a cleaner and more resilient economy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and adapts to the climate crisis.

UK Government: Revaluation of business rates postponed

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that a revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus.

"We have listened to businesses and their concerns about the timing of the 2021 business rates revaluation and have acted to end that uncertainty by postponing the change," he said.

"Now is the time for us to continue to focus on supporting businesses affected by the pandemic, including through our unprecedented package of almost £10 billion in business rates relief."

The government will continue with its work to review business rates, with the key aim to be reducing the overall burden on businesses, improving the current business rates system, and considering more fundamental changes in the medium-to-long term. 

The call for evidence for the review will be published in the coming months.


Green space should be a priority in local plans

The social distancing measures implemented to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) has highlighted the ‘critical importance’ of high-quality green spaces within housing developments, says Ecological Planning & Research Ltd (EPR).

The consultancy highlights that green and blue spaces have long been understood to improve human wellbeing – people with access to such amenities have lower levels of mental distress than those without, as was outlined by a Public Health England report in 2014. 

Therefore, there is a contrast between people’s experiences of lockdown, with some having access to green open spaces while others lack it, such as those living in dense urban areas or rural areas comprised of private farmland with no public access. 

For EPR, local plans should emphasise the provision of green and blue infrastructure, particularly in urban areas.

Public Practice boosts council capacity

Public Practice has announced that its fourth cohort of built environment professionals will see 39 people start roles between now and June.

Recruitment for this cohort took place in late 2019, with associates coming from a wide range of professional backgrounds. They will be placed across 22 authorities in London and the South East. 

Work for existing Public Practice associates includes assisting local authorities respond to coronavirus (Covid-19), and new cohorts will join the effort.

Taskforce created on Covid-19 rough sleepers response

The government has announced that a specialist taskforce has been created to to lead the next phase of its support for rough sleepers during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Dame Louise Casey will lead the taskforce.

It will work with councils across the country on plans to ensure rough sleepers can move into long-term, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over. Th government said it wants to make sure as few people as possible return to life on the streets.

Facilitate Magazine reports: ondon Nightingale hospital to be mothballed

The Nightingale hospital in East London that was set up to deal with a potential influx of patients affected with Covid-19 is to be mothballed, according to the NHS.

Those working at the field hospital at the ExCeL conference centre were told that no new patients will be admitted and that the facility would be put on standby.


Incremental upgrades to rail network would help Northern economy

Incremental rail improvements in the north of England would help to spur the region’s economy back into action after Covid-19, but projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail should be considered long-term schemes to level up the economy.

Legal landscape: The importance of keeping evidence proportionate in plan making

In the second of three pieces looking at how local plan making can be improved, Wayne Beglan argues for stricter rules around the supply of evidence to local plan compilation and examination to keep the focus clear and manageable.


Covid-19 triggers big planning changes in Northern Ireland

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon has announced changes to the process for large planning applications, temporarily removing the requirement to hold a public event as part of the pre-application community consultation.

The changes are due to come into effect today (1 May) and will apply for five months. Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure has prepared guidance for applicants.

Applicants will still need to comply with other requirements to ensure that communities are aware of and can provide input to large development proposals for their areas. 

The Planning (Development Management) (Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 will temporarily amend the Planning (Development Management) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015.

The amendment will apply to proposal of application notices (PANs) submitted to councils before or during the defined emergency period.

Northern Ireland Executive: Mallon looks to reshaping recovery plan  

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon this week stressed her commitment to an ambitious executive recovery plan which would involve “working towards reimagining and reshaping our spaces to accommodate cycling, walking and active travel” as part of a strategy “delivering cleaner, greener and healthier communities.”

Belfast Live reports: Tourism initiative to address post-pandemic recover

Economy minister Diane Dodds has set up a Tourism Recovery Steering Group to spearhead planning and preparations for the sector after the Covid-19 emergency is over.

Scottish Government: Latest Covid-19 planning moves in Scotland

The Scottish Government has published its promise guidance note on the emergency changes  to pre-application consultation requirements including expectations about the replacement of the public event with alternative, web-based approaches. In a separate but further Covid-19 move, regulations have come into effect  which amend the GPDO in respect of planning permission for certain medical developments required to reduce, mitigate or control the spread of the pandemic.

Scottish capital development update
Edinburgh City Council has revealed it has determined 360 planning applications since lockdown began and that its development management sub-committee will start to meet again virtually to consider significant planning applications from 20 May. 


PINS to hold digital hearing

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has announced that its first pilot digital hearing will take place on 11 May.

“We are preparing for additional cases to be heard by digital hearings/inquiries in May/early June with a view to scaling up digital events further over June/July,” a statement from PINS explained.

The organisation is assessing postponed cases to establish whether they can proceed by digital, traditional or a ‘hybrid’ approach, in order to re-arrange these in due course accordingly. A trial of ‘virtual site visits’ is also underway, which involves 13 inspectors.

Hills asks Jenrick to legislate for extended planning permissions  

The RTPI has again called on the government to bring forward legislation that extends planning permissions in England that are due to expire during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, chief executive Victoria Hills said the government action on extending planning permissions is “urgently needed”.

“It is evident that government action is urgently needed to provide extensions to planning permissions set to expire in England during the period of the pandemic.

“Primary legislation appears to be required in order to provide automatic extensions to the permissions. We suggest you look at primary legislation to automatically extend those permissions expiring between now and the end of December, so they all expire instead on 31 December.”

RTPI expresses support for local authority planners’ use of new powers (external link)

With the functioning of local authority planning using new virtual meeting powers coming under increasing media scrutiny this week, RTPI head of policy Richard Blyth has voiced the institute’s support for planners as they seek to sustain the planning process.

“In these challenging times, local authorities have needed to make decisions about ways of progressing planning applications, including by using virtual planning committees and by delegating powers to senior officers,” said Blyth.

“The RTPI supports the continued ability of chartered, professional planners to make key decisions. Planning officers must follow the local plan and take full account of all public representations - the RTPI recognises the vital importance of community engagement in an effective planning process.

“We will soon be publishing a full analysis of the findings of a recent survey of our members’ experiences of the impact of Covid-19, which will be supplemented by wider interviews and information on how planning departments are responding to this unprecedented situation.”

Measures needed to safeguard public voice during Covid-19 pandemic

Campaigners have encouraged all local authorities to adopt measures to safeguard the public voice in planning decisions made under temporary legislation meant to enable the planning function to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The calls come after the government issued regulations to facilitate English local authorities to hold public meetings virtually, by phone or video link.

In a letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, they say: “While these unprecedented times rightly call for innovation, the current ad hoc access to the democratic and participatory process creates an unfair ‘postcode lottery’ which could result in long-term damage to the interests of local communities, to the wellbeing of vulnerable citizens and to the environment.”


Stantec asks Jenrick to clarify advice to local authorities

Engineering services firm Stantec has sent an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, regarding the impact of Covid-19 on the determination of planning applications. In the letter, the company’s senior associate planner, Michael Gilbert MA (Hons) MTCP MRTPI, asks for further government guidance to ensure that applications can be progressed and determined without delay.

Construction minister: Infrastructure crucial to post-Covid-19 recovery

Construction minister Nadhim Zahawi has spoken of bringing forward infrastructure projects to support the construction sector’s economic recovery after the Covid-19 crisis.

In an online speech to members of the National Federation of Builders’ Large Contractors Forum, Zahawi said he was “talking to other departments to see what projects we can accelerate or bring forward because in terms of incentivising growth, infrastructure is going to be important and the government’s commitment to infrastructure is going to be important”.

Council webcasts planning committee meeting

South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) has held its first online planning committee meeting.

On Thursday 23 April, 15 SNC members dialled into the council’s videoconference system to participate in the meeting, which was broadcast live on YouTube. 

Democratic, planning and legal officers also took part, as did the public, via seven recorded representations and one written statement from applicants, interested parties and objectors.

Legal landscape: How planning law is responding to Covid-19

A balance between rapid response and robust legislating must be struck in responding to emergencies, says Keith Lancaster.


Annual housing completions could drop by 100,000, analysis suggests

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic could cause annual housing completions to drop by around 94,000 homes by 2024/2025 – the year of the next general election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

The analysis, by planning consultancy Barton Willmore, is predicated on comparable data from the 2008 global financial downturn. 

It suggests that the UK would see net new homes completed drop from 244,000 new homes in 2019/20 to 160,000 new homes in 2020/21. This decreased level would be maintained for four to five years while the economy strengthens and the housing sector rebounds.

The financial year 2023/24 would deliver the least amount of housing, at around 140,000 homes.

Fund set up to help heritage sector through Covid-19

Historic England has launched a fund of up to £2 million to tackle the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on the heritage sector.

The fund is envisaged as a “safety net” for the sector – helping small heritage organisations to survive the immediate challenges and prepare them for recovery.

Historic England developed the emergency fund after undertaking a survey of heritage organisations that highlighted the effect on the sector, particularly small organisations with 10 or fewer employees. 

UK Government Sunak updates Parliament

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has updated the House of Commons on the government’s economic response to coronavirus.

The goal of strategy is to provide a bridge over what will be a "sharp and significant crisis", by:

  • keeping as many people as possible in their existing jobs;
  • supporting viable businesses to stay afloat; and
  • and protecting the incomes of the most vulnerable.

"In other words, to maintain the productive capacity of the British economy."


More time allowed for public participation in planning

The Irish Government has agreed to a further extension for all public participation in the planning system for 19 additional days, up to and including 9 May 2020, as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This decision means that the initial 23-day extension to public participation periods is now 42 days or six weeks.

New regulations for Welsh local authority meetings should help planning

Legislation currently places requirements on local authorities to meet in person in specified offices, to make many meetings open to the public and to enable the public to inspect documents related to the meetings, in some cases in the offices of local authorities.

This runs counter to the measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

The changes just announced – the Local Authorities (Coronavirus) (Meetings) (Wales) Regulations 2020 – make temporary provision for local authority meetings and for public and press access to these meetings during the pandemic.

Work stalls on developments in Northern Ireland

Figures collated by industry body CIS show that current Covid-19 restrictions have stopped the construction of 5,000 houses and 1,500 flats in Northern Ireland.

These schemes have a combined value of €925 million (£807,756,250) according to an update published by Construction Information Services.

Work stalls on 50,000 new homes and flats

Figures compiled by trade body Construction Information Services (CIS) has revealed that the Covid-19 emergency has stalled work on 33,000 houses and 17,000 apartments in the republic.

However, contractors have been notified by the country’s Housing Agency that work should resume on 35 sites where 1,000 social housing units were close to completion before the hiatus occurred.

Planning Inspectorate tailors its casework 

Planning Inspectorate Wales has published an update on how it is handling  casework from each individual planning authority. In some instances it is not starting new appeals. Its appeals casework portal remains operational and is the preferred route for submission of new appeals and representations.

NRW: Latest advice on compliance

Natural Resources Wales has announced that providing businesses prioritise compliance with permit conditions that directly protect the environment it will take a “proportionate and reasonable” approach over how it assesses compliance during the Covid-19 emergency.

Pinsent Masons: Advice on completing s106 agreements during lockdown

Pinsent Masons’ partner James Lockerbie and legal director Jo Miles have proposed several solutions for planners wanting to complete on section 106 agreements, a process rendered difficult because of the current Covid-19 restrictions.

UK Government: Cash to protect freight routes to Northern Ireland

A multi-million-pound government scheme has been announced to help ensure "critical" freight can continue to move into and across the union by ferry.

The package, worth up to £17 million, is being funded by the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and will be made available to operators so that they can continue running freight services on five sea routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK Government: Emergency fund for island transport links

The government has announced emergency funding of up to £10.5 million to support "lifeline" transport links to the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly. 

The funding – agreed jointly by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Her Majesty’s Treasury – will support the continuation of crucial passenger ferries to the Isle of Wight as well as sea and air links to the Isles of Scilly over the next three months.


RTPI outlines planning reform priorities

Planning in England should be refocused on 21st century issues and technology should be harnessed to improve efficiency, according to the RTPI.

In a new report, the institute also said it should be well-resourced in order to prepare for a sustainable economic recovery after the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

Published ahead of the government’s planning white paper, Priorities for Planning Reform in England, sets out five recommendations for how better planning can help the government tackle the UK’s housing crisis and other, wider 21st century issues. 

Consultancy launches Covid-19 tracker

Planning consultancy Lichfields has created an online resource to assist planning professionals with navigating the planning environment during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.


Small is beautiful: Planning for a post-Covid world

Is the ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ the solution to the impacts that the coronavirus epidemic is having on our lives? Nick Corbett puts the case for urban villages as a route out of the oppression of lockdown.

21/4/ 2020

How legal changes can keep planning and development open during the coronavirus epidemic

The Law Society has requested a slew of changes to the English planning system to enable planning and development to continue during the coronavirus epidemic and the post-lockdown period, as Sara Hanrahan explains

"It is not yet possible to determine when lockdown eases if there will be an immediate bounce back or not, but in either scenario planning will have an important role in the recovery of both housing and the wider economy."

Sky News reports: This is how much traffic congestion has dropped in your city during lockdown

New data from TomTom has revealed a significant drop in the number of people driving on the UK's roads during lockdown.

Traffic congestion has almost disappeared since the government advised people to stay at home in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

In the UK's 25 largest cities congestion levels have dropped by an average of 57 per cent - from 73 per cent to just 16 per cent.

London Property Alliance writes to MHCLG (external)

London Property Alliance (CPA & WPA) has written to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) urging it to get London building as soon as possible to support future housing delivery and improve retail flexibility.

The letter set out that there should be an automatic two-year extension of existing planning permissions for major developments due to expire over the next 12 months and that the government should bring forward alterations to Class A use classes, to improve high street flexibility after Covid-19.


Lawyers outline measures to address permission expiry deadlines

The legal profession in England and Wales has outlined a number of planning measures to help to manage the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) – including amending primary legislation to extend the time limit on planning permissions.

The Law Society of England and Wales Planning & Environmental Law Committee and the City of London Law Society Planning & Environmental Law Committee have written to housing secretary Robert Jenrick with eight suggestions on the steps that can be taken to ensure that the planning system and the construction industry can deliver during and after the crisis.

As Parliament is just coming out of Easter recess, and could sit with a reduced number of MPs or even virtually, the committees acknowledge that amendments to primary legislation “could suffer from more restrictive parliamentary time”. 

Therefore, they have “looked at the appropriateness of temporary development changes and where these can be made using secondary legislation or non-legislative guidance”.

Cycling minister urged to support safety measures

Pressure groups have urged cycling minister Chris Heaton-Harris to support the reallocation of road space to cyclists and pedestrians during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and resulting lockdown.

In a letter to Heaton-Harris, Cycling UK, British Cycling, Brompton Bicycle, London Cycling Campaign, the Bicycle Association, Sustrans, and The Ramblers – supported by the director of public health at Barts Health NHS Trust – highlight that roads are being used less and “that many street layouts across the UK are not currently fit for purpose during the pandemic”.

The letter states that the UK has “vast amounts” of road space currently being underused that can be temporarily reallocated at low cost. “This is becoming increasingly essential as key workers choose cycling or walking to get to work, avoiding potential transmission via public transport.”

It concludes with an appeal to the minister to support cycle and walking spaces, not only for the immediate situation, but to mitigate against a second wave of the virus when people begin returning to work and avoid public transport. 


Planners concerned about delays to the system

A survey conducted by the RTPI has shown that its members are concerned about delays to the planning system and its efficient functioning during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and resulting lockdown measures.

After considering the results, the institute urged the government to issue guidance to prevent unnecessary delays to development and the knock-on effect to the economy. 

Guidance is needed to address a range of challenges including planning permission durations, site visits, site notices, communication with stakeholders, and transparent decision-making.

Belfast planning committee move

Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie has been given special emergency delegated powers in lieu of the planning committee, a move subject to agreement from the Department for Infrastructure.

Winners and losers in a campaign-free spring: How coronavirus is affecting local politics

The coronavirus epidemic has derailed this spring's local elections. That's good news for those of us who don't have to face a spring of being doorstepped by candidates, but not such good news for the government, says Tom Curtin.


PINS update

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) expects to be holding its first digital pilot case either at the end of this month or early next month. It is currently in the process of firming up details with the parties concerned and will provide an update on this as soon as practically possible. 

The organisation will review the situation as and when government advice changes and expects to publish further updates on an ongoing basis.  

Welsh emergency hospital PDR measure

The regulations which allow the NHS to carryout emergency development of hospital facilities in Wales (e.g. converting a sports or leisure centre into a hospital) without having to apply for planning permission have been published.

New regulations to keep planning in Scotland functioning head for Parliament 

The administration has laid regulations in the Scottish Parliament - due to come into force on 24 April - that will help keep planning functioning during the Covid-19 outbreak. These measures include the temporary steps to suspend the need for public events in pre-application consultation, local review bodies meeting in public and hard copies of EIA reports in physical places. Guidance on all of this is promised soon.

Councils allowed to defer £2.6bn in business rates payments

The UK Government has announced that councils will be allowed to defer £2.6 billion in business rates payments to central government, and £850 million in social care grants will be paid up front this month.

The measures aim to help ease immediate pressures on local authority cash flows.


Covid-19: Emergency fund for UK heritage

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has announced an emergency £50 million fund to support heritage during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The new fund is to address the immediate pressures that occur over the next three to six months for those most in need – as well as investing in essential digital skills across the sector. 

It will provide expertise in areas such as digital fundraising, use of social media and communications, and running online events and activities.

Facilitate Magazine reports: Vinci Construction on site for Welsh Rainbow Hospitals

Construction UK is a part of a group that is creating temporary Rainbow Hospitals at Deeside Leisure Centre and Bangor University – the equivalent of the Nightingale hospitals that have opened in parts of England. 

Renamed Ysbyty Enfys Glannau Dyfrdwy (Rainbow Hospital Deeside) and Ysbyty Enfys Bangor (Rainbow Hospital Bangor), they will form two out of three sites that have been handed over to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) to provide a combined 1,000 additional beds to help to meet increased demand over the coming weeks and months. 

Welsh planning minister Julie James has introduced emergency temporary permitted development rights to allow local authorities to change the use of buildings without planning permission during the pandemic.


Community groups invited to monitor public participation in planning

The national charity for the civic movement has asked communities and local authorities to provide it with feedback on how new regulations for determining planning applications during the Covid-19 outbreak are being implemented.

Civic Voice, which is seeking to ensure that communities are engaged in the planning process from the outset, wants stakeholders in the planning system to feed into its research to understand the effect the temporary regulations may have on community participation in the planning process.


Permitted development rights for creation of medical facilities comes into effect

Emergency legislation that allows councils and health providers in England to establish facilities to aid the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak came into force today (9 April).

The temporary permitted development will come to an end on 31 December 2020.

The right allows “local authorities and health service bodies to carry out development, both works and change of use, of facilities required in undertaking their roles to respond to the spread of coronavirus, without a requirement to submit a planning application".

Buildings that could be changed include conference facilities, such as London’s ExCeL, which has already been transformed into NHS Nightingale. Buildings can be temporarily erected on land that is owned or leased by health service bodies or local authorities, or on their behalf to “provide health facilities such as temporary hospitals, coroner facilities, mortuaries and testing units”.

Plea for air and sea ports bailout in Northern Ireland

Stormont ministers have insisted that air and sea ports in the province need urgent help to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

They have asked UK transport secretary Grant Shapps to introduce special measures.

Opinion: The future of plan-making in light of Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to cause significant slippage in both the progress of local plans and housing completions. Roland Brass speculates on the implications, and potential solutions to the issues this raises


RTPI experts discuss how planning has responded to the Covid-19 crisis

The RTPI's head of policy Richard Blyth, director of Scotland and Ireland Craig McLaren, director of Wales and Northern Ireland Roisin Willmott and chief executive Victoria Hills discuss how planning is supporting the governments of the UK to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

West London council to host virtual planning meeting

Kensington and Chelsea Council is due to host what it believes will be the first fully virtual planning meeting since new regulations came into force last week. 

On 9 April, Kensington and Chelsea Council will convene its planning applications committee meeting, which will be chaired by James Husband.

Councillors, officers and members of the public who have asked to speak at the meeting will be able to dial into the virtual call. This will be broadcast via the council’s website for the wider public.

All relevant documents are available online and officers will make online presentations during the meeting.


RTPI CEO: Covid-19 a potential ‘game changer’ for PlanTech

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills expects the remote working practices enforced as a result of the coronavirus crisis to result in changes to how planning is carried out within local authorities as newly embraced tech tools become the norm.

Facilitate Magazine reports: Two more sites to be retrofitted as hospitals

NHS England has announced that two new NHS Nightingale field hospitals will be created in Bristol and Harrogate to provide hundreds of extra beds if local services need them during the peak of coronavirus.

These are in addition to those under development in London, Manchester and Birmingham.


Face-to-face consultation to be replaced with online alternative in Scotland

The Scottish Government is set to suspend the requirement to consult face-to-face on major and national developments during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown. 

Writing to local authorities, the country’s chief planner John McNairney and planning minister Kevin Stewart, explained that they intend to bring forward emergency regulations for this element of the planning process. 

This “reflects the reality that face-to-face contact must be avoided for now”. 

However, prospective applicants are expected to replace this requirement with an alternative online version so that people can still be engaged and have the opportunity to influence proposals that affect them. 

Facilitate Magazine reports: IWFM asks government to ensure key stadd have accesso to buildings

The IWFM has joined other built estate membership organisations in asking the government to help key facilities personnel continue their work during the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to communities secrtary Robert Jenrick, the organisations point out that many of their members who typically provide key facilities and safety-critical services “are struggling to provide them, sometimes because of public perceptions about who should be able to move around in the current environment.”

The letter emphasises the importance of ensuring that this core group of professionals “remain active and have access to specific buildings – taking into account social distancing practices – in order to ensure they are properly monitored and maintained.”

High streets to benefit from £22bn grants and business rates package

The government has promised struggling high street firms that they will be receiving £22 billion coronavirus boost, with grants of up to £25,000 already being paid into their bank accounts.

Also, to support those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, eligible properties, including those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, will not pay business rates for the next 12 months. The measure is projected to save firms in England £11 billion.

Feature: How to keep planning applications on track during Covid-19

It’s not exactly business as usual during the coronavirus lockdown but the planning sector has shown determination and adaptability in its efforts to keep the system working. Alexandra Ground and Katherine Chambers take a look at the adjustments being made to ensure planning applications can still be submitted and assessed. 


Regulations for virtual planning meetings issued

The government has issued the regulations required for English local authorities to hold public meetings virtually during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.

They come into effect on 4 April.

The regulations aim to ensure that local authorities can make effective and transparent decisions for various services that they provide, including planning decisions, and hold cabinet and committee meetings. They apply to all local authorities in England.

Local authorities are still required to make meetings accessible to the public. The government said it up to each local authority to decide how they conduct meetings, how voting procedures work and how to ensure that the public has access.

The regulations apply to meetings taking place before 7 May 2021. 

PACC events cancelled as NI’s chief planner moots extended planning permissions

The Department for Infrastructure has announced its intention to remove the requirement for pre-application community consultation (PACC) events for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency. 

Amendments to the Planning (Development Management) Regulations NI 2015 will be required.

The move is highlighted in the latest update (no 5) from chief planner Angus Kerr.

Covid-19 triggers more time for public participation in Ireland

The Irish Government has approved immediate changes to the planning system necessitated by the Covid-19 emergency, which will have the effect of allowing more time for public participation in planning applications.

This will be extended by three weeks. This new time frame will also apply to planning appeals.

Emergency bill extends duration of planning permissions in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament has voted unanimously in favour of new emergency powers – including an extension to the expiry times for planning permissions. 

The legislation, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, was rushed through the Scottish Parliament in the space of one day on Wednesday (1 April).

The new measures extend any planning permission – including planning permissions in principle – that would lapse within the next six months so that it will not expire until April 2021.

Scottish ministers would have the power, through regulations, to amend the duration of these six-month and one-year periods.

Sizewell C DCO application delayed

EDF has announced that it will submit its application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for a nuclear power station 'slightly later than planned' due to the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

The application for Sizewell C was due to be submitted by the end of March to the Planning Inspectorate, where it would have been considered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime.


Waltham Forest approves 750 homes at virtual meeting

Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee has granted planning permission for a 750-home scheme in Leyton at a virtual planning meeting. 

As well as the homes, Taylor Wimpey and the council sought full planning permission for the demolition of existing structures and the building of five blocks ranging from three to 18 storeys in height on the site of the Score Centre.

For the meeting, councillors on the planning committee met in a committee room where they maintained social distancing, as set out in government guidance to address the spread of Covid-19. All other participation was conducted through Microsoft Teams.

COP26 postponed due to Covid-19    

The COP26 UN climate change crisis has been postponed until 2021 due to the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

It was due to take place in Glasgow this November.

The decision has been made by representatives of the COP Buereau of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), alongside the UK and its Italian partners.

The dates for the conference in 2021 will be set out in due course, according to a government statement. It will be still be hosted in Glasgow by the UK, in partnership with Italy.

Manchester chief exec to decide planning applications

The chief executive of Manchester City Council has been delegated power to decide planning applications during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. 

Joanne Roney will also make decisions on listed building consent and tree preservation order applications.

According to a Council Business Continuity Arrangements document on the council website, the delegated authority is to be “exercised in consultation with the director of planning, building control and licensing and with the chair and deputy chair of the committee when both are available, and either if only one is available”.


West Sussex council requests a pause in progress of local plan

Horsham District Council has asked the government to pause in the process of the area’s local plan amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) required local plans to be reviewed and updated every five years. 

Horsham’s current adopted plan will be out of date in November, with its housing requirement set to increase from 800 homes a year to 965 homes. 

“In the very changed circumstances we find ourselves in, I think it is vital to take the action of trying to get this local Plan process delayed. Councillor Ray Dawe, leader of the council, has written to the secretary of state setting out the potential impacts of Covid -19 on the council and on our local plan preparation, and is requesting that the requirements for local plan timetable are reviewed,” said Claire Vickers, Horsham District Council cabinet member for planning and development.

James introduces emergency permitted development rights to help NHS

Welsh housing minister Julie James has introduced emergency temporary permitted development rights to allow local authorities to change the use of buildings without planning permission during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

The Welsh Government wants local authorities to be able to use leisure centres as temporary hospitals if needed, “to prevent or control an emergency”. 

The move is in support of the NHS and the intent is to increase hospital capacity across the country.

PINs issues Covid-19 update

The Planning Inspectorate (PINs) has outlined how it is working during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which is seeing people working from under strict measures issued by the government to stem the spread of the virus.

The update covers the trialling of new technology and guidance for nationally significant infrastructure projects, local plans and planning appeals. 


Covid-19: Officers at Welsh council to decide all applications

Pembrokeshire County Council has approved measures triggered by the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak that mean officers will be able to decide planning issues. This includes all planning applications normally considered by the planning committee.

Although the planning committee will not be involved, a protocol accompanying this radical move allows for the cabinet member with responsibility for planning, as well as the chair and vice-chair of the planning committee, to see and comment on the case officer’s report and any proposed conditions or terms.

There will be a 72-hour period for these members to consider, comment and if necessary, object to what is proposed. In some circumstances the decision could be referred to the council’s urgency committee.

The new arrangements will be in place for two months and will cease when the planning committee is able to reconvene as usual or is able to meet remotely.  

Edinburgh contractors asked to follow national guidance

The City of Edinburgh Council has asked contractors delivering non-essential council-led construction to follow the Scottish Government’s guidance.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has advised that all construction projects should stop during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown, unless they are delivering essential buildings, such as hospitals.

The council has set out a general position in relation to its acceptance of delays to provide clarity and to protect the health and wellbeing of all those who live and work here.

Council issues call for help to house homeless

Lichfield District Council has called for second home owners, hoteliers, B&Bs, Airbnb owners and student housing providers to offer accommodation to house the district’s homeless during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The council is seeking properties to house rough sleepers and homeless people as it is “vital” to get them into suitable accommodation so they can self-isolate.

Burnham's charity donates £100k to homelessness

The Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity has granted an emergency £100,000 to the city-region’s homelessness charitable sector. 

Alongside this, it has launched an urgent appeal calling on big business and individuals to donate funds to support voluntary, community and social enterprises during coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

Donations will form the basis of packages of goods to be delivered to those homeless people currently living in hotel accommodation.

(Subscription) Inside Housing reports: Northern Ireland social landlords promise to halt evictions during coronavirus crisis

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey announced that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and all the region’s housing associations have reached the agreement with the Department for Communities (DfC).

She said: “This is a worrying time for everyone and I am very aware that there is an increased level of anxiety in our community.

“The last thing anyone needs right now is to add the security of their home to those worries.”

Sharma writes to construction industry (pdf)

Business secretary Alok Sharma has written to the construction sector to thank it for its work "building temporary hospital wards, installing complex and life-saving oxygen systems, constructing the infrastructure that society needs to function [and] ensuring that people have safe and healthy homesto live in".

He notes that  the industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which have been published by the Construction Leadership Council. "These align with the latest guidance from Public Health England. As this health guidance updates, the SOP will reflect any changes," he says.  


Support package for self-employed works welcomed by RTPI

The RTPI has welcomed chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, but wants the government to bring forward the help earlier.

Chief executive Victoria Hills said the package of support would be a “lifeline” for many self-employed planners during the national lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Network Rail: Key railway workers enable movement of 370,000 tonnes of food and medicine in a week

Last week key workers from Network Rail enabled more than 370,000 tonnes of freight to be moved between west London and Cornwall, as well as across Wales to support the economy, the NHS, petrol at the pumps and food in shops.

Network Rail teams have put steps in place to ensure key workers can get to their critical jobs and to move thousands of tonnes of vital supplies by freight, despite a reduced passenger timetable.

(Subscription) Inside Housing reports: Government guidance states cladding remediation work can continue

Cladding remediation work remains “critical to public safety” and can continue during the coronavirus outbreak, government guidance has said. 

It also confirmed that those operating waking watches would be considered “essential workers” and continue to be allowed to travel to and from work during the lockdown.

On remediation work, the guidance states that construction sites have not been asked to close and that work could continue if done safely. The guidance said it was therefore “possible” for remediation work to continue.


Opinion: How is the coronavirus epidemic affecting town planning?

What are the impacts of coronavirus on planning and the planning system - now and in the future? Ben Stansfield, Nigel Hewitson and Richard Thurling offer their thoughts.

"The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has already had unprecedented effects for society. Advice from government regarding social distancing, coupled with many people now working from home has turned the normal day-to-day business of all sectors upside-down. These effects will be felt all the more acutely now that 'lockdown' measures are coming into effect.

"[In this blog], we consider some immediate issues for the planning world and then propose further discussion points looking at how some of the longer-term impacts may play out."

Scottish appeals directorate looks to Skype as traditional hearings ditched

Scotland’s Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) has insisted that its local development plan and appeals casework will continue, albeit that written representations will become the norm during the coronavirus outbreak.

It also will make use of technology such as Skype to facilitate hearings and inquiries. But all planned site visits are postponed with immediate effect.

The DPEA offices in Falkirk are now closed until further notice. Email communication remains in place.

Murphy announces emergency planning measures

Ireland's local government and planning minister Eoghan Murphy has announced a package of planning-related measures triggered by the coronavirus emergency.

These initiatives would make it much easier to put up temporary health facilities and remove the need for change of use permission for restaurants that want to operate as takeaways.

The minister has also received assurances from local authorities that they will not enforce conditions that limit opening hours and delivery times for shops and pharmacies in order to support the provision of food, medicines and other essential supplies.

In addition, various statutory periods involved with planning and building control legislation would be paused as necessary.

Appeals regime takes a hit in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s planning appeals system has been dealt a blow as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The offices of the Planning Appeals Commission are now closed.

All arrangements for submission of evidence and proceedings are suspended. 

“Once our offices are open [again] we will be in contact to make alternative arrangements,”  the organisation has told all those affected.

All appeals will be dealt with by written representation for the foreseeable future. All accompanied site visits have been cancelled.

Despite this hiatus the statutory time limits for submission of appeals remains unchanged.

UK Government: Letter from minister to local authorities

Minister for local government and homelessness Luke Hall has written to all local authorities in England to update them on plans to protect rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic. 


RTPI: Tell us your views on the Covid-19 response

The RTPI wants to hear from its members about what they think about the UK Government’s response to the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Chief executive Victoria Hills said: “In these unprecedented times, we would urge all our members, whether working in the public or private sector, employed or self-employed, active or retired, to take part in this survey. 

“Members’ responses will form a vital part of the RTPI’s discussions in the coming weeks and months with not only the UK Parliament, but also the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Governments too.”

Coronavirus Act allows virtual planning committee meetings

Planning committee meetings will be able to be held virtually during the restrictions that have been implemented to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) under emergency legislation.

This act makes provisions for “persons to attend, speak at, vote in, or otherwise participate in, local authority meetings without all of the persons, or without any of the persons, being together in the same place”.

The regulation is for meetings required to be held before 7 May 2021.

Hills suggests reducing working hours to help mental health

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills has introduced measures at the institute for staff to reduce their working hours by 30 per cent to help safeguard their mental health as they work from home during the coronavirus lockdown.

The institute will review the situation after the Easter break.

Leeds reduces planning services

Leeds City Council has announced that its planning and sustainable development service will continue as a reduced service during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.

Where possible, existing planning applications or planning queries are being progressed.

New or more recent applications though, may be subject to delay until the circumstances change because it is not possible to publicise them either by placing notices at locations or sending letters of notifications to residents.


Covid-19: Quartermain outlines government support for planning authorities in final letter as chief planner

England’s chief planner Steve Quartermain has encouraged local planning authorities to use technology to continue their service, and ensure discussions and consultations can go ahead during the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Regarding the preparation of local plans, Quartermain encouraged planning authorities to continue this work as much as possible, and to “work proactively with their community and other stakeholders to progress plans, even if some adjustments to timetables are necessary”.

Facilitate Magazine reports: ExCel undergoes refit to become hospital to fight coronavirus

The ExCeL London Centre is being refitted to take hundreds of beds with oxygen and ventilators, NHS England has announced.

The new NHS Nightingale Hospital will open next week to provide support for thousands of patients with coronavirus. 

It will be based at the ExCeL conference centre in East London and will initially provide up to 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen. The capacity will then continue to increase, potentially up to several thousand beds, should it be required.

Self-employed need more support during coronavirus crisis, says RTPI

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills has urged the government to expedite plans to support self-employed workers in the UK through the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Writing to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Hills explained that many of the institute’s self-employed members have already been impacted by Covid-19.

RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence to go ahead – on YouTube

The RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence are to take place as scheduled on 30 April – but as an exclusively online event. 

The winners are to be announced during an online ceremony that RTPI members can watch as-live once they have subscribed to the institute’s own YouTube channel.

In the RTPI’s latest response to the coronavirus crisis, the ceremony will now take place as a YouTube ‘Premiere’, broadcast at 13:00pm BST on 30 April. Members logged in to the RTPI’s channel will be able to comment on proceedings as they transpire. A link to the specific page for the ceremony will be shared soon.

PINS update

The Planning Inspectorate has issued a further update to its advice for the appeals service during the outbreak of Covid-19. 

It can be found here on the UK Government website.

BBC News reports: Pressure to halt construction work grows

The government is facing growing pressure to stop non-essential construction work to help tackle the spread of coronavirus in the UK.

On Tuesday (24 March), health secretary Matt Hancock said those who cannot do their jobs from home should go to work to "keep the country running".

Construction work can continue so long as people are 2m (6.5ft) apart, Hancock said.

But critics said public health should be prioritised over the economy.


PINS suspends site visits

Following the announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johson that everyone but key workers must stay at home, the Planning Institute has suspended site visits until further notice.

Graham Stallwood, director of operations, said "in England we have been undertaking small-scale tests over the last week, using technology to progress hearings, enquiries and examinations. There are still challenges to overcome, particualry around involving residents, communities and other interested parties, making sure those decisions are open, fair and impartial."

PINS is working with industry stakeholders to work through these challenges. Stallwood is "confident" that in the coming weeks the trial will able to be rolled out and made more widely available.

Pubs and restaurants can operate as food takeaways

The legislation for the relaxation of planning regulations in England has been laid and was made official on 24 March. The temporary permitted development right will end on 23 March 2021.

Conditions for the change of use include that the developer must notify the local planning authority if the building and any land within its curtilage is being used, or will be used, for the provision of takeaway food at any time during the relevant period.

The legislation can be read here.

Covid-19: RTPI asks PM for stop-gap measures to support planning sector

The RTPI has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to request the introduction of temporary measures to support the planning sector during the Covid-19 crisis.

The requests come in an open letter – also signed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) – in which the three organisations offer help to the government “in this time of national emergency”.

The bodies speak of their “vital contribution to the global success of the UK’s built environment”, noting that their members “have access to a wide range of buildings that could be used by the NHS or other key workers and are keen to meet with senior officials to discuss how they could make a difference”.

RTPI issues coronavirus update

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills said the institute has extended the suspension of all events and travel until 31 August amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Anyone who is booked on an event during this period will receive information on whether it is to be cancelled, postponed or held in a virtual capacity.


Scotland relaxes enforcement rules to aid takeaway services during coronavirus outbreak

Scotland’s chief planner and planning minister have written to local authorities about the relaxation of enforcement regarding pubs and restaurants offering takeaway services during the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Currently, many of the country’s pubs do not have planning permission to operate as takeaway businesses, but both John McNairney and Kevin Stewart believe that, given the public health challenge facing Scotland, “it is vital that support is given to these businesses to allow them to maximise opportunities to maintain a revenue stream and avoid potential closure and loss of small businesses”.

McNairney and Stewart have also written to local authorities about planning restrictions that confine deliveries from lorries and other delivery vehicles to within set hours.

The letter makes it clear that the Scottish Government wants planning authorities to take a “positive approach to their engagement with food retailers and distributors, as well as the freight industry, to ensure planning controls are not a hard barrier to food delivery” during the Covid-19 outbreak.


Planning lawyers propose ‘virtual planning inquiries’ to be run from home during coronavirus restrictions

A group of planning lawyers from two leading chambers has sent a proposal to the Planning Inspectorate, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for a ‘protocol’ that would keep the planning system functioning during ‘exceptionally difficult and worrying times’.

The “dedicated team” from Kings Chambers and No.5 Barristers’ Chambers is recommending that essential legal processes such that planning appeals and examinations in public can continue using digital tools.

In particular the proposal, also sent to the Planning and Environment Bar Association, advocates ‘the Virtual Planning Inquiry’ using “video conferencing and document sharing to consider, hear and test evidence in an effective way without compromising public involvement and fairness”.

Planners ready to support communities and businesses amid coronavirus outbreak

RTPI president Sue Manns has urged planners to remain calm and to continue to follow government advice as the UK works to bring the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) under control.

Manns stressed the importance of supporting initiatives, such as the relaxation of rules on deliveries. 

The RTPI has considered all of the announcements in recent days and has now called on planners to identify what more the government could be doing to help to support the sector.

Mallon calls for light-touch delivery planning regime 

Northern Ireland's infrastructure and planning minister Nichola Mallon has written to local councils making it clear they should temporarily hold back on any planning enforcement action that could result in restrictions on deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential products, including medicines. 

This move was triggered by the Northern Ireland Executive’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.


Government acts to protect renters and rough sleepers during coronavirus outbreak 

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak renters and landlords will be protected from losing their homes and unmanageable debts. He has also committed funds to protect those who are sleeping rough.

The government says emergency legislation forbidding landlords in England to evict tenants for at least a three-month period is an “urgent priority”. This will protect both social and private renters.

As the virus may also put pressure on landlords, the government’s plan for the three-month mortgage payment holiday announced earlier this week (external link) will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of Covid-19.

Jenrick has also committed £3.2 million in emergency funding to help those who sleep rough or who are at risk of homelessness to self-isolate during the spread of Covid-19.

The funding will be available to all local authorities in England. It will reimburse them for the cost of providing accommodation and services to those sleeping on the streets to self-isolate.

This funding is in addition to the £492 million committed for 2020 to 202 to support the government’s aim to end rough sleeping during this Parliament, which is part of the £643 million intended to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the next four years.

High Streets Task Force provides update on coronavirus outbreak

The High Streets Task Force has issued an update regarding its pilot programme amid the continuing Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

The pilot programme began working with 14 towns in February this year, while seven diagnostic tests have been held in the past few weeks, including meetings with local authority leaders and their partners to discuss high street performance and plans for the future.

Each of these towns will receive a report on the visit, as well as the next steps.

However, given the outbreak of Covid-19 and the resulting guidance issued by the government, the remaining seven pilot visits will not take place. They have been postponed until social distancing is discontinued and there are no longer restrictions on movement.


Pubs to operate as food takeaways under government response to coronavirus

The government has announced that planning regulations in England will be relaxed so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Under current regulations, planning permission is required for businesses to carry out this change.

The limited permitted development right will see a temporary change of use of an A4 drinking establishment (pub) and an A3 establishment (restaurant and cafés) to a hot food takeaway for up to 12 months.

PINS issues Covid-19 advice

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has issued guidance about site visits, hearings, inquiries and events in England and Wales amid the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) and the government’s advice on social distancing and staying at home.

Full and up-to-date details of the advice issued by PINS can be found here. PINS last updated the advice on 24 March.


Coronavirus outbreak prompts wholesale planning response

Local authorities must urgently ensure that planning controls are not a barrier to food delivery to retailers by distributors and the freight industry amid the disruption caused by the coronavirus.

In a written ministerial statement, communities secretary Robert Jenrick told planning authorities not to carry out enforcement action that would “result in unnecessarily restricting deliveries of food and other essential deliveries during this period”.

Image credit | iStock | Chris McAndrew | All credits for small images appear on the original The Planner article