Government confirms automatic extension for some permissions

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The Housing Secretary positively announced today that developments that have already been granted planning permission or listed building consent in England with an expiry date between 23rd March and 31st December 2020, will be automatically extended until 1st April 2021.

The announcement follows recent calls from the Royal Town Planning Institute, the British Property Federation and the Home Builders Federation to introduce the measures in a bid to prevent existing permissions from lapsing and to help the construction industry to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Similar emergency legislation was introduced in Scotland at the start of April which allowed planning permissions which were due to lapse to be extended by a year.

Planning permissions are usually valid for three years and expire if work has not commenced onsite. Once expired, developers are then required to reapply for permission. Government estimates reveal that by the end of June, in excess of 400 residential permissions, equating to more than 24,000 homes would have expired. Those permissions that have already lapsed before this measure comes into force will be subject to an Additional Environmental Approval process before the extension can take effect.

The construction industry has been faced with a number of challenges as a result of the pandemic, including the impact on supply chains, temporary suspension of work and increased health and safety measures, all of which are likely to have caused delays to projects. The extension of existing permissions will be welcomed by those developers that have been unable to begin work due to the impacts stemming from the virus and the subsequent lockdown.

In addition to this, the government announced today new measures to permanently grant the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) the ability to use more than one procedure, including written representations, hearings and enquiries, at the same time in order to accelerate the appeal process. Encouragingly, a pilot programme which tested this approach last year found that the time taken to determine appeal enquiries was shortened from 47 weeks to 23 weeks.

It is understood that legislative changes will be introduced as part of a new Business and Planning Bill set to be unveiled later this week.  It will be interesting to see the detail of the proposed automatic extensions and how they will take into account any s106 or CIL requirements.   In the meantime, if you have any queries regarding any of the above, please feel free to contact one of the Firstplan team.