A number of new measures were announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick a couple of weeks ago to help the construction industry boost building and return to work safely and are proposed to come into effect through the new Business and Planning Bill (“the Bill”).  In this blog my colleague Hannah Mannion considers the proposals.

The Bill was first introduced to the House of Commons on 25 June 2020 and has now progressed through to readings in the House of Lords, with the Committee stage due to take place on the 13 July. It is expected to be fast tracked through Parliament so watch this space for an update on when it comes into force.

Sections 17 - 19 of the new Bill introduce temporary provisions to extend implementation periods for full and outline permissions, as well as listed building consents. In England, planning permissions are typically subject to a condition that requires implementation within three years of approval. The new measures will automatically extend the implementation periods for permissions that have an expiry date between the date 28 days after the Bill comes into force and the end of 2020 to 1 April 2021. Where a planning permission has already lapsed in the period since 23 March 2020 or will lapse before the provisions take effect, it can be retrospectively “reactivated”, subject to an ‘additional environmental approval’ process. Where a permission is reactivated in this way, the implementation period will also be extended 1 April 2021.

The Government has estimated that by the end of June 2020 alone, over 400 residential planning permissions, providing more than 24,000 new homes would have expired. Scotland made the move to extend any planning permissions which would have lapsed in the following six months back in April 2020, so this is certainly a very welcome announcement in England.

The new measures will also permanently allow the Planning Inspectorate the ability to use more than one procedure when dealing with a planning appeal – written representations, hearings and inquiries. This new measure follows a pilot which took place last year and it was estimated it more than halved the time taken for inquiries from 47 weeks to 23 weeks. We have certainly seen this trend increasing in recent appeals with inquiries including round table sessions for particular topics, for example housing land supply, and requests from Inspectors to deal with issues by way of written evidence, where appropriate.

The Bill also proposes a number of further measures including making it easier for premises in England serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs by introducing “pavement licensing” which allows the licence-holder to place removable furniture over certain highways adjacent to the premises in relation to which the application was made, for certain purposes.

Changes to alcohol licenses have also been proposed which allow operators to serve alcohol for consumption off the premises (which would also apply to Wales) as well as the modification of construction working hours which allow developers to apply to the local planning authority to extend working hours temporarily on construction sites.

 It is estimated that construction output fell in Britain by a record 40% in April and so the new measures will undoubtedly be welcomed by developers to assist in getting the construction industry back on its feet. However, as with most changes aimed at the relaxation of the planning regime, for example permitted development rights, it may be that unintended consequences follow if proposals are not appropriately scrutinised.