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Coronavirus impact: planning applications
The planning service relies on a number of prepared letters, emails and other notifications. Given the speed of change it has not been possible to update these documents and they may refer to ways of working which have been temporary suspended or changed. The keys changes in our working practices are outlined below. If you have any queries please contact the Head of Development Management, Gavin Prescott via email: email@example.com,
The planning service is still operating although our offices are closed to the public to ensure the safety of our staff and our residents. As the crisis continues we are trying hard to keep running effectively in the face of unprecedented challenges. We are continuing to respond and bring forward different ways of working as quickly as possible. Please bear with us whilst we put plans in place, we will continue to update the website as often as we can.
We are following the government advice and our staff are working remotely from their homes. There will be a skeletal presence in the offices until we have put measures into place to follow government guidance in terms of returning to work in the office. Most staff are enabled for home working and are therefore contactable from home via email.
Not all staff are equipped with mobile phones but they are able to access answerphone messages remotely and will get back to you as soon as they are able. Please be mindful that some staff are balancing work with caring responsibilities, and other roles having been deployed to assist with other critical services within the Council.
Determining applications and site visits
We are currently focusing on determining applications where we have already visited the site. Any site visits carried out will be from a public vantage point, and staff currently are not entering properties or sites. Not all applications will require a site visit as we may have sufficient knowledge or can access information on our systems to allow us to properly consider the proposal. We will not delay our decision-making unnecessarily. In the event that a site visit is necessary we will work with the applicant to agree a suitable extension of time for the application and to explore other means whereby we can gain an understanding of the site and the proposal.
Delays to applications
It is likely that there will be some delays as we are working under very different circumstances. Please bear with us while we introduce new processes for validating and determining applications as we are working remotely with limited travel. Furthermore, despite our best efforts to keep our staff safe and working at home, there is a risk that we might experience increased levels of sickness. Therefore, we will be asking applicants and agents for extensions of time on applications where necessary. We will though endeavour to determine your applications within the statutory time period.
Hard copies of planning applications
Planning applications cannot be submitted in hard copy. We apologise but we are unable to accept hard copy applications at this time because we have no way of collecting incoming mail for the time being. If you have posted a hard copy application to us from 23 March onwards you may wish to consider emailing firstname.lastname@example.org direct to ensure that we have received your written submission. All hard copies posted since the above date will be on hold. You may wish to consider resubmitting online via the Planning Portal or emailing to us direct at email@example.com
To reduce risks to our customers and staff we need to process electronically as much as possible. If you have submitted an application a Validation Officer may contact you and request an email address to use on a temporary basis.
If you are an agent who doesn’t usually accept email but can on a temporary basis, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitting revised/additional information
We understand that it may take longer for our applicants/agents to provide additional/revised information. Therefore, until further notice we will cease returning applications after the 21 days if information requested is not received. Additional/revised information should be emailed to email@example.com. Applications can also be amended via the Planning Portal, however please notify us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Paying for planning applications
If you have submitted your planning application via the Planning Portal please arrange to pay the Planning Portal direct. If you submit by email to Blackburn With Darwen Borough Council, payments for planning applications should be made over the phone by 01254 585585 and ask for the Planning Support Team. If you pay your planning application fee by phone, please email email@example.com to advise that you have paid to help reduce delays.
Questions about the validation process
If you have a question regarding a specific application that has been submitted, please contact the validation officer listed on correspondence you may have received. If you have a general question about the submission and validation process, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pre-applications and other services
We will continue to provide advice via the ‘Do I need Planning Permission’ service (with the exception of hard copy submissions which we are unable to accept at this time). With regards to pre-application advice, at the present time we are able to provide either a desktop only service or, subject to prior appointment, case officers are available to discuss your scheme with you either by Skype or phone (charged as a pre-app with accompanying site visit).
Commenting on a planning application
If you are self-isolating and want to comment on a planning application but have no access to email or the internet and can’t go out to post a letter, the best way to send us your comments is to ask a relative or friend to email them to email@example.com.
Staff take issues into account (as long as they are material planning considerations) regardless of the sender. If you are unable to arrange for someone to submit comments electronically on your behalf then please contact the case officer directly using the contact details on the notification letter you have received.
We prefer to receive comments electronically, but if you do not have the means to do this, and wish to send your comments by post, please be aware there may be delay on these comments reaching the case officer.
Finding out about planning proposal that may affect you
Planning applications etc will be available on the online Planning Register and advertised in the local press in the normal way. However, we will not be displaying a Site Notice for the majority of planning applications at present but will continue to send neighbour notifications to residents abutting a site. The minimum publicity as set out in Planning legislation only requires either a Site Notice or a neighbour notification for most types of applications. However, a site notice will be required for applications for
- development affecting a Public Right of Way
- development representing a departure from the Development Plan
- applications for EIA development accompanied by an Environmental Statement
- major applications
- permission in principle
- advertisement consent
- listed building consent
- for alterations or extension/demolition, and development in a conservation area.
Changes to how we will engage will be published in a revised Statement of Community Involvement subject to approval by the Council’s Executive Board in July 2020.
Applications scheduled to go to a Planning & Highways Committee
Until further notice, all applications will be determined by the Director of Growth & Development in accordance with the current Scheme of delegation pursuant to the Council’s constitution. Should your application require to be determined by the Committee in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation, please contact the case officer or Head of Development Management to discuss the progress of your application.
Virtual planning committees
The Government has introduced regulations to allow committee meetings to be held remotely. The details of the regulations are being reviewed and ways that this can be enabled are being investigated. We aim to start virtual Planning Committees on 18th June with the Planning & Highways Committee. Initially we will be having smaller agendas than normal. Further details on this will be provided.
Conference calls/video links
All face-to-face meetings are cancelled. Officers can arrange meetings by Skype, Microsoft Teams or by telephone. We are looking at how Skype meetings can be arranged with external participants.
Planning enforcement is being undertaken but we may not be fully investigating matters where significant harm cannot be demonstrated. All site visits where officers have to enter sites or properties have been suspended. There is new legislation to allow certain temporary changes of use to take-aways. We will also take a pragmatic approach to some developments which are undertaken purely to cope with the impact of COVID 19.
Construction Sites: extended working hours
Proposed approach at Blackburn with Darwen
The Government announced through their Ministerial Statement on the 13th May, that “Our Plan to Rebuild: the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” published by the Government on Monday 11 May, makes clear that construction work can be undertaken across England providing sites are able to operate safely in line with the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
A number of developers have already announced plans to restart work on sites. The purpose of this statement is to make clear that, with immediate effect, local planning authorities should take a swift and positive approach to requests from developers and site operators for greater flexibility around construction site working hours. This is to ensure that, where appropriate, planning conditions are not a barrier to allowing developers the flexibility necessary to facilitate the safe operation of construction sites during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to proceed at pace with work otherwise delayed as a result of COVID-19. Developers should expect their local planning authority to grant temporary changes to construction working hours until 9pm or later, 6 days a week, wherever possible and where construction working hours are controlled by planning condition. This flexibility is in relation to controls imposed by the planning system only.
The current standard hours of working imposed by Blackburn With Darwen Borough Council imposed as a condition on development sites are: Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm, and not on Sundays or Bank Holidays.
The Government has produced a document with questions and answers relating to this proposal.
Local planning authorities are encouraged to support the requests for extended working hours. Where this is short term & only a modest increase in the working hours, this will be submitted via an informal agreement. The developers must put this in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org how they are proposing to operate and the type of activity beyond the existing authorised hours. For example, a short term period to get the construction sites back moving, would be 12 weeks from now until the end of August. There shall be no heavy machinery, ground working or HGV construction activity occurring before 7:30am and after 6:00pm (the latter being the existing hours of construction). This will also include no vehicles parking up before these extended times. Beyond these times e.g. 7:00am and up to 9pm (4pm on a Saturday) it should only be non-noisy activity i.e. tradepersons working on the dwellings e.g. bricklayers; plasterers, electricians, painters/decorators etc. The request will then be considered in consultation with Environmental Protection officers.
In allowing greater flexibility, the Government recognises the need to mitigate the impact that any temporary relaxation of working hours could have on local residents and businesses. Requests to extend working hours should be proportionate and should not involve working on Sundays or bank holidays.
Developers will be required to post a letter through all local residents’ doors adjacent to the application site, setting out the dates, times, activities and (critically) their site manager’s name and mobile number so if issues arise they can be immediately addressed. This is because the Council offices will be shut during these additional periods of activity. The letter must be posted at least 5 working days before the activity starts.
The planning service will inform the ward councillors prior to this as well to make them aware of what has been informally agreed, and this will be monitored i.e. if there are continuing complaints relating to the extended hours then the planning service has the power to cease this immediately.
If developers wish to have a longer period beyond the 12 weeks, and longer working hours, then it is proposed the developers must formally apply via a Section 73 (Variation of Condition application) i.e the ministerial statement says these extended hours should not extend beyond 13 May 2021. The local planning authority will have 10 working days to determine these applications, and the applications will be referred to the Chair of the Planning & Highways Committee should there be a large number of objections.