Government announces automatic extension of planning permissions- coronavirus


The Government has announced that it will introduce measures to extend planning permissions which were due to expire this year.

Planning permissions typically “lapse” if they are not implemented within 3 years of issue. However, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, developers have faced problems in carrying out the work required to implement permissions – for example, disruption to their supply chains, the difficulties of workers having to social distance on site and delays in discharging pre-commencement planning conditions.

As a consequence, the Government has faced calls from across the industry to introduce measures to prevent consent for permitted schemes from lapsing. Scotland introduced similar legislation back in April.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, announced on 22 June that planning permissions which were due to expire between 23 March and 31 December 2020 would be extended until 1 April 2021.

The measures include consents which have already lapsed; although the Government has suggested that these will be subject to an “Additional Environmental Approval” process before they are automatically revived. The full detail of how the extensions will work is yet to emerge. However, it is anticipated that these measures will form part of legislation aiming to support the country’s recovery from the pandemic, which will shortly be put before parliament and hopefully fast-tracked.

The announcement will be welcome news for developers and should help to ensure that extensive investment to date in securing planning permissions is not wasted. The ‘backdating’ of the measures to 23 March 2020 is crucial. Recent figures announced by MHCLG estimated that between 23 March and 20 June (i.e. since the UK’s “lockdown” began), 430 planning permissions for residential developments to provide approximately 25,000 homes had lapsed. The proposed legislation will allow these lapsed planning permissions to be resuscitated.

Alongside the automatic extension of planning permissions, the Government announced plans to reform how the Planning Inspectorate conducts planning appeals to enable them to be conducted more flexibly and therefore faster. In addition, MHCLG also indicated that measures would be put in place to allow construction sites to operate with flexible working hours.