Welsh Government (WG) today issued a letter clarifying the effect of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 on planning, aiming to ensure an effective planning service.
It provides guidance on how Local Planning Authorities should adapt their ways of working. In the letter, WG thanked LPAs for their flexibility and commitment. WG recognises the impact COVID-19 will continue to have on resources, but states an intention to continue to determine planning applications. As follows is a summary of the main outcomes:
- Publicity and site notices – Site notices are still required to be displayed. To ensure that applications can still be validated, site visits can be made to post site notices, and to carry out assessments of site conditions. Activities must comply with requirements of the Coronavirus regulations and only be undertaken if necessary. Applicants may be asked to assist in displaying notices on behalf of Councils. Publicity via the internet is encouraged along with direct letters to be issued beyond usual scope of neighbouring occupiers. Authorities are also encouraged to use social media and other online services ‘in a creative way’, to widen public engagement with the planning system.
- Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) – As per the guidance for local authorities above, planning agents are required to display a site notice prior to the commencement of PAC. Temporary amendments to remove the need for making the information available in a public location is yet to be determined.
- Planning Committees – As detailed in new WG legislation on Committee Meetings which came into force on the 22nd April, Planning Committees can make decisions via virtual/remote means. The Act removed requirement for meetings to be held in public and made provision for various documents to be published electronically.
- Determination timescales – No changes proposed, but right to refund planning fee when decision not made in time is to be considered for removal. WG encourages developers to agree to extensions of time and for authorities to be reasonable in their requests.
- Hearings and Inquiries – Not currently being held in person, however the Inspectorate has converted to written representations when circumstances permit. Yet to determine whether a change in legislation is required to allow for events to be held virtually.
- COVID-19 applications – any applications directly linked to combatting the virus should be prioritised and expedited. New permitted development rights to undertake temporary development in relation to the COVID-19 emergency have been put in place for local authorities and NHS bodies.
- Hazardous substances advice – Land use planning team at the Health and Safety Executive is available if assistance is required with priority applications.