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1st September 2020

Coronavirus – Keeping the planning system moving and participation in decision making


1st September 2020

Coronavirus – Keeping the planning system moving and participation in decision making

New legislation and guidance continue to emerge, seeking to ensure the continued progress of planning applications through the different stages of the planning system.

Planning system changes

We set out below the changes, whether temporary or permanent, that have been put in place regarding the planning system since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

An innovative and pragmatic approach to decision making and publicity

  • Local Planning Authorities have been asked to be pragmatic, work proactively with applicants and where necessary, agree extended periods for making decisions.

In March the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government asked Local Planning Authorities to ‘take an innovative approach, using all options available to you to continue your service’.

The planning system has sought to adapt in response to the current circumstances. Given the issues surrounding carrying out site visits for example, applicants can be asked to display the site notice for their application themselves and to provide detailed photographs of their site.

From 14th, May 2020, temporary changes have been made to the statutory publicity requirements, including newspaper publicity and neighbour notification. This allows for other reasonable steps to be taken to publicise planning applications, for example, through the use of social media and other electronic communication.

Councils are also reviewing their decision making processes to consider delegating decisions to smaller groups of councillors or officers. Many have also held virtual planning committee meetings, including providing the opportunity for applicants or members of the public to speak.

Virtual planning committee meetings

  • New legislation came in to force 4th April 2020 to allow Local Authorities the ability to hold virtual planning committee meetings for meetings scheduled before 7th May 2021.

The new act allows meetings to take place where not all of the attendees, or any of the attendees, are present in the same place. Similarly, the definition of the place where a meeting is held can include more than one place, including electronic, digital or virtual locations.

Local Plans and appeals

  • New guidance has been issued and the Planning Inspectorate are working with two Local Authorities to hold virtual examinations.

Updated guidance states that Inspectors will be asked to “explore with local authorities and Programme Officers how each current examination can best move forward ensuring fair participation, including at the hearing stages”.

The Planning Inspectorate initially postponed all local plan, appeal and NSIP hearings and inquiries. Work has now taken place to allow a number of virtual inquiries to be held and Inspectors have also begun to undertake site visits, where it is safe to do so.


  • Wherever possible use electronic means of communication to contact planning departments and when submitting planning applications or additional information.

The current circumstances bring many challenges to the usual ways of working and how planning applications are validated, assessed and determined. As many officers will be working from home email is likely to be the best way to get in contact. The Planning Inspectorate have also asked that appeal forms and evidence are not sent by post, but submitted through their casework portal.

For further information please see the following links:

How we can help

Preparing for the future

Perhaps you are considering diversifying your business to offer additional services or looking to change the use of an existing building. Perhaps you are a home or business owner looking to extend your property, or are a housing developer considering potential new schemes.

Although there is currently uncertainty, this time can be well used to put plans in place, preparing for when normality returns.

Obtaining planning and planning legal advice

We can provide pre-application advice and guidance regarding the information that will be required to submit your proposal, as well as the relevant planning policy to be considered. We can assist you in preparing you application as well as providing planning legal advice.

Paris Smith Planning Lawyers and Planning Consultants can support you to consider your options and ensure that you are well placed to submit your proposals.

At Paris Smith LLP we are working hard for our clients to continue to deliver the results they need. Whilst working remotely and avoiding all social contact, we remain open and available to assist clients via teleconferencing, emails and telephone calls. 

For any further information on the above issues or for advice on planning more generally, please contact:

Our previous blog “COVID-19 and the planning system – new legislation” talks about the new planning legislation brought in to support businesses in view of COVID-19.

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