Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said councils should publicise planning applications on social media as part of changes introduced to ‘radically restart’ the construction industry
As of yesterday (13 May) local authorities do not have to publicise planning applications through local newspapers, site notices or leaflets under temporary changes introduced to help development work resume.
Extra measures include allowing construction sites to operate for longer hours – up to 9pm – and contractors to stagger worker hours to reduce the number of people on-site at any one time. The government suggested some projects could move to 24-hour working in a bid to claw back time lost during the Covid-19 crisis.
In terms of planning, authorities will be required to ‘take reasonable steps’ to ensure people with an interest in a proposed scheme are told where they can view the application.
The latest government guidance states that these steps ‘may include use of social media and communication by electronic means’, adding that they ‘must be proportionate to the scale and impact of the development’.
Councils have also been given temporary powers to defer Section 106 payments, and disapply late payment interest, from developers with a turnover of less than £45 million.
Jenrick said he expects all Planning Inspectorate hearings to go ahead digitally, and noted he that had already expanded permitted development and changed the rules on planning meetings since the beginning of the lockdown.
In a ministerial statement in the House of Commons, Jenrick said the new changes were ‘going to get the planning system going again and bring it into a digital future at the same time’.
Victoria Hills, chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said the measures were ‘positive and pragmatic steps to keep development moving’.
But she called on the government to extend planning permissions due to expire during the lockdown, as planners fear a surge in re-applications could overwhelm their workload.
‘We remain concerned that the issue of planning permissions due to expire during the lockdown has not yet been addressed,’ she said. ‘We have repeatedly called for this to be urgently addressed.’
Jenrick also announced that the housing market would reopen, with all professions involved – including surveyors, estate agents and removal firms – able to go back to work.