Development Management Protocol – During COVID-19 Emergency
Due to the COVID-19 emergency the importance of keeping the planning function operating for the benefit of residents and businesses is recognised, and so that we can also comply with our determination deadlines and don’t allow a backlog to build up we have adopted an interim protocol
This protocol sets out how development management will operate –
Officers are predominately working from home in accordance with government advice it is therefore recommended that the preferred method of contact is by e-mail. We are working as expediently as possible to meet deadlines but there may be unforeseen circumstances where this may not be possible and we would please ask all applicants, agents and interested parties to recognise we a working as hard as we can to ensure appropriate development in Ashfield is not delayed.
E-mails will be forwarded to relevant officers if sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
If the matter is urgent an officer maybe contacted via the duty officer on 01623 457388 specific advice may not however be given. We will request an e-mail address in order for a response to be given.
- Applications are being validated and registered
- The consultation process remains virtually the same. A weekly list is produced and sent electronically to Members of the Council, consultees are advised electronically. Neighbour letters are sent by post but comments are now requested within 28 days. Adverts are being placed in the press. Site notices are being sent to applicants to display for a minimum of 21 days on the site and photographic evidence is requested to show this is being done.
- The offices are not open to view plans, all plans are available to view on-line only.
- Comments are being received by post, e-mail or via the web site.
- The time period for Members to call applications into committee remains the same and clear planning reasons for the call in are still required.
- Officers are assessing applications based on information received, using technology and records that is accessible to them, applicants may be contacted to provide further evidence such as photographs to enable detailed assessment to be made without site visit. If a site visit is required it will be arranged with the applicant to ensure access is available with no contact with persons.
- Assessment made and delegated decision issued. or
- If the application has been called in to Planning Committee investigations are being made to hold a virtual meeting.
- Virtual Planning Committee, members and officers would be linked by computers and web cams, to hear a presentation and debate. Public Speakers would be the same as in the constitution but will have to provide a submission which can be read out by officers or a pre-recorded video. (This arrangement is still to be finalised)
Officers are considering our approach to enforcement. We will continue to register and acknowledge all formal complaints that are received in writing/e-mail (not anonymous). We would however request full details of the alleged breach of planning control with evidence using photographs of the building or details of the use eg. times/frequency a use is occurring. Whilst formal action is discretionary to the LPA, we do have a duty to investigate reported matters. Our current policy is to investigate all reported matters following a desktop triage process. It is recognised that we could change our policy to reduce what we investigate, in consultation with members.
It is acknowledged that there will be ongoing enforcement matters which we might need to tolerate for a temporary period because of the current situation - we should not force people to move or travel. A pragmatic approach will be required.
A Written Ministerial Statement was published on Friday 13 March which urges local planning authorities to apply pragmatism to the enforcement of restrictions on food and other essential deliveries at this time. Local planning authorities should also use their discretion on the enforcement of other planning conditions which hinder the effective response to COVID-19.
Furthermore, the government has relaxed planning regulations allowing cafes and restaurants to offer take-away facilities.
It is considered that we could reduce the complaints that are formally registered for a temporary period whilst we are dealing with the pandemic by not registering certain breaches for example:
- Breaches of planning conditions relating to delivery times to essential businesses
- Changes of use of cafes/restaurants to take-aways
- Householder development (unless the person reporting demonstrates significant harm)
- Breaches of construction traffic management plans (unless the person reporting demonstrates significant harm)
In other cases, we would register but explain that there may be a delay in dealing with the matter.
Planning Inspectorate guidance
In response to the spread of COVID-19, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has published guidance on how it will continue to carry out its duties under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the Planning Act 2008. While some site visits, hearings, inquiries and events will have to be cancelled or postponed, PINS is considering alternative arrangements where possible.
Searching for a planning application
The Council’s records can be accessed through the Council’s on line mapping system https://www.ashfield.gov.uk/your-council/maps/ and click on the map once this page is open. From here you can search the address and then on the left of the screen switch on the relevant layers associated with the property.