The normal requirements for publication of planning applications following submission to the local Planning Authority (LPA) have been relaxed by the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic given the constraints of lockdown.
The Town and Country Planning (Development Procedure, Listed Buildings and Environmental Impact Assessment) England (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (Amendment Regulations) amend the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 to provide that if it is not reasonably practicable for a LPA to give notice of an application by site display, serving notice on an adjoining owner or occupier or by publication in the newspaper because of the effect of the Coronavirus then it will be sufficient for LPA to put notice of the planning application on their website and take reasonable steps to inform those likely to have an interest in the application (including persons who live or work in or otherwise have direct connection with the area in which the proposed development is located) of that website.
This can include by way of social media and other electronic means but the steps taken need only be proportionate to the scale and impact of the development.
The time to make representations has also been extended from 14 days to 21 days but the 30 day period for environmental impact assessment applications remains the same.
In addition, the planning register can be kept electronically and made available on the LPA’s website (this is usually available electronically in any event).
This has addressed concerns from both LPAs and developers with regard to publication of planning application during the COVID19 pandemic on the basis that there could be challenges to a grant of planning permission where the normal publication requirements could not be met or even if met, some hard to reach interested parties would not be able to see the documentation in person during the lockdown. This makes it clear that publishing information electronically in accordance with the Amendment Regulations will be sufficient.
Similar changes have been made in respect of applications for listed building consent where the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Regulations 1990 have been amended to allow applications to be published on the LPA’s website rather than putting up notices and publishing notices in the local newspaper and also instead of requiring that paper copies of the application are made available for inspection.
Changes have also been made to the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.
The changes include that when serving/submitting an environmental statement and any associated documents they can be served electronically by e-mail. In addition, publicity can be carried out electronically rather than by site notice or publication in a newspaper. The requirement to provide copies of environmental statements at a particular address for personal inspection is also amended to allow the environmental statement to be published online with notices to let people know where to find it online.
These amendments are only temporary and will expire on 31 December 2020 but assist in managing the publicity requirements during the COVID19 pandemic where it is not possible to examine notices and documents in person given the lockdown measures.