Welsh Government (WG) today issued a letter summarising how it intends to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and how Local Planning Authorities should adapt their ways of working.
In the letter, WG thanked LPAs for their flexibility and resourcefulness. WG recognises that some delay will ensue, but state an intention to maintain an effective planning service. As follows is a summary of the main outcomes:
- Planning Committees – Committee meetings are cancelled currently, but WG is looking into how to continue to make major planning decisions via amended protocol for Committees. Regulations are likely to come forward using the powers set out in the Coronovirus Act 2020, which gained royal assent yesterday (25th March) and allows for Committees to make decisions via virtual/remote means.
- Validation of planning applications – online applications via Planning Portal will continue to be processed. Applications in paper form will not be progressed for some time.
- 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. Right of appeal on grounds of non-determination remains.
- Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) – WG seeking to amend legislation to remove need for site notices and making information available for inspection at a location in vicinity of development. Therefore, PAC will be able to continue, and developers are encouraged to engage with communities via online services.
- Publicity and site visits – site notices will not be required to be erected under imminent new legislation, and site visits by LPAs will not be expected to be made. As per PAC, online services will be encouraged to be utilised more to increase publicity for applications.
- 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 are being considered.
- Local Development Plans – WG have previously issued guidance on this, which advised some LPAs to pause progress to ensure future satisfactory public engagement, though others may have sufficiently progressed their LDPs to allow progress to continue to be made. Pragmatism is encouraged, and technical work should proceed where possible. LRM Planning can provide further information in respect of individual Local Authorities, if required.
- National Development Framework – scrutiny by Senedd is to be delayed whilst focus remains on urgent health matters.
- Planning Policy Wales – long-anticipated revocation of TAN 1 was announced today (26th March) and new PPW will be progressed containing policy relating to the monitoring housing supply. Other national policy consultations in respect of Technical Advice Notes and Technical Statements will now pause until after the end of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Appeals – intended to process all casework normally as far as possible.
- Call-in of applications by Welsh Ministers – WG endeavour to determine such requests within normal timescales of 21 days.
- Design Commission for Wales – DCFW has made arrangements to continue to provide its service online, including carrying out reviews via video conferencing.
- Enforcement – likely to be a delay due to need to visit sites, post notices etc. LPAs instructed to be pragmatic, but instances of urgent action requiring site visits should be seen as ‘essential’ and encouraged to be dealt with as a priority.
- Developments of National Significance – likely to see some slowing of progress in respect of DNS applications as other matters take priority.