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Government urged to relax planning regulations

23 March 2020

The RTPI, RICS and RIBA have written to the Prime Minister offering to assist “in this time of national emergency" and "seek Government support for the UK’s construction and infrastructure sectors which are worth over £100 billion to the UK economy".

Members are particularly concerned about the potential cancellation of early stage projects and that once the pandemic is over it could result in the ‘elongation of the recovery period’. The letter calls for support to a number of measures including a temporary relaxation of time limits for planning applications. They also ask for greater flexibility around the operation and submission of evidence to planning committees.

The Government began to look at relaxing permitted development rights earlier this month when it confirmed it would allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways. This change was designed to help both businesses and those who have self-isolated.

However, it is strange that a more extensive package of emergency changes to planning has not been announced. In addition to the above measures, for example, there has been widespread recognition of the need for enforcement powers to be relaxed for supermarket delivery times. There may also be a need to extend the temporary change of use provisions from 28 days to three or even six months to allow for other uses of land to help the emergency services and local authorities. This might include, for example, additional shelter for the homeless or even pop-up morgues if the pandemic escalates.

It would be good to hear from the industry what other planning reforms might benefit communities.

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