Planning Services response to the Coronavirus
We are doing our best to manage the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on our planning services but there will be an impact.
You can find more information about service changes on our council COVID-19 webpage
While Coronavirus has impacted the way in which the planning team work, we are trying to enable work to continue. The Planning Services team are working from home, as required by Government. Following the Prime Minister's speech on 23 March 2020, the following changes have been made and may affect your application or an application that you are interested in:
During these unprecedented times, we will be unable to fulfil some of the commitments set out in our adopted Statement of Community Involvement related to how we consult on a variety of application types. The temporary changes, outlined below, have been made to protect the health of our communities and follows national advice and guidelines.
Changes to Publicity for Planning Applications
Please note that we will not be displaying a Site Notice for the majority of planning applications during the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation for most applications requires either a Site Notice or a Neighbourhood Notification. Hastings Borough Council has committed to the erection of site notices to meet the publicity requirements for applications and this is set out in our Statement of Community Involvement.
However, during the current crisis we will not be displaying Site Notices which will ensure officers are not travelling out of their homes unless absolutely necessary to protect the health of our staff and our residents. Instead, for a temporary period of 3 months, subject to review, we will revert to the use of neighbour notification letters. Neighbour notification letters will, during this three month period, be sent to properties immediately adjacent to the application site in question. This will commence on 24 April and apply to all applications which have not been determined and for which the publicity period of any site notice erected expired after 22 March 2020. By making this temporary change this will allow Planning Services to continue to determine planning applications, where possible.
The only exception being applications for development affecting a Public Right of Way, development representing a departure from the Development Plan or applications for EIA development accompanied by an Environmental Statement, as these applications require a Site Notice to be displayed. For these applications during the COVID-19 crisis period, we will ask applicants to display the site notice or agree to an extension of time until the restrictions on travel no longer apply.
We ask that all comments are submitted online. This can be done here: http://publicaccess.hastings.gov.uk/online-applications/
To find an application, you will need to know either the address or the full application number and use the search bar to find the application.
Once you have found the application you are interested in commenting on, click on the 'make a comment' button at the top right-hand side of the screen.
In using this method of submitting comments, sensitive data is automatically redacted.
For us to be able to publicise comments online, where those comments are not submitted through the Council's web site, they must be redacted manually. This is to remove personal information such as email addresses and telephone numbers.
The equipment to carry out this function is not available outside the office, so redaction will not be possible. Please be advised we will not be able to publish your comments online if they are submitted as an attachment by email or sent in the post. Comments submitted as an attachment by email will be held on file but will not be visible online. Comments submitted by post will not be received until the ongoing restriction to work at is lifted. If you want your comments to be visible please resubmit them via our online commenting tool, using the link provided above.
If you have submitted a comment by email and we have not been able to redact it, we will contact you to let you know that you will need to resubmit the comment. This will be required in order for it to be visible online. Or, you can email us again at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pre-redacted comments. Pre-redacted comments should not include personal contact details, signatures, specific personal circumstances such as health conditions, behaviour, or financial details of either yourself or a third party.
We cannot accept paper copies of application forms until the requirement to work from home is lifted. Unlike letters of comment, it is a requirement that an application form is capable of being viewed online by members of the public. The equipment to carry out this function is not available outside the office, therefore redaction will not be possible and will cause delays in the time taken to determine your application. Please submit your application online, using the Planning Portal.
In cases where you have already submitted a paper copy of the application form but we have been unable to redact sensitive information, we will contact you and ask that you resubmit the application form via the Planning Portal. Alternatively you may wait for the government allow staff to go to their place of work.
We cannot accept paper copies of any supporting information; plans, ecology reports, photographs etc, as these will need to be scanned in by us to be added to the electronic file and viewed by members of the public. The equipment required to scan in documents is based in the office and not, at present, portable. If you have submitted paper copies on any supporting information, please resend this information to us electronically.
For applications you intend to submit, all information must be sent to us electronically, either via the Planning Portal or via email. Please provide two copies of supporting information, one full copy and pre-redacted. Pre-redacted information should not include personal contact details, signatures, specific personal circumstances such as health conditions, behaviour, or financial details of either yourself or a third party. The pre- redacted copy of the information will be visible to the public, the full copy, not visible.
The constitution does not allow for 'E-Petitions' in respect of planning applications. So until a time when the constitution is changed, we cannot accept 'E-petitions'. We can no longer accept paper copies of petitions following the government's restriction on office working.
More details of this can be found in the Council's Constitution under Part 4 - Rules of Procedure, E-petitions, paragraph 10.2 and under Part 5 Planning Protocol, paragraph 56.
All council committee meetings, including the planning committee, have been cancelled until further notice. Government has introduced emergency legislation to allow planning committees to take place virtually, using video conferencing. The Council are now working together to set up and test virtual committees. It is hoped that we will be able to start using virtual planning committees soon.
We update these pages regularly so please do visit here again to see what progress has been made
We will not be able to attend any meetings and if these have not already been cancelled, your planning officer will be in touch with you shortly to cancel. It is possible however to carry out the meeting through video conferencing. In order to do this you will need to download Microsoft Teams. The planning officer will then send you an invite which will allow you to join the meeting.
Site visits and the erection of site notices will not be possible, until the ban on office working is lifted. In order to allow work to continue, neighbour notification letters will be used for a limited period in place of site notices. More details of this can be found under the heading 'Temporary changes in respect of publicity of planning applications during COVID'.
What is a virtual site visit?
A virtual site visit is a way in which a planning or enforcement officer can view your property, or in the case of an enforcement complaint, another site, without being present on site.
Why are we doing this?
In order for a planning officer to make a recommendation on a planning application, in most cases they will need to visit the site so that they can fully understand the impact of the proposed works on the site and surrounding environment. During the Coronavirus pandemic, planning officers are not able to undertake site visits; however, we are keen to determine planning applications where possible. We are trialling virtual site visit to see if this can allow us to make a proper assessment on site.
For the purposes of enforcement cases, you as the complainant will be able to show the enforcement officer your concerns. Please note however by doing so that the person connected with the property you have complained about may become aware you raised a complaint. If you wish to remain anonymous then a virtual site visit will not be possible for you.
How does it work?
For the applicant or agent
Your planning officer will contact you to check whether you are eligible. If you are eligible, your planning officer will email you a meeting invitation. You can then join using Windows Teams. You will then show the officer, via your tablet, phone or laptop, the site in question. In advance of the virtual site meeting, the planning officer will email you a plan with numbers marked on it. At the virtual site meeting, you will then move the tablet etc around your property in the order shown on the plan.
For a neighbour
If you are concerned about an application and wish to show the planning officer how you would be affected, you may either write to us in the normal way or, you can request a virtual site meeting. The planning officer will contact you to check whether you are eligible. If you are eligible, the planning officer will email you a meeting invitation. You can then join using Windows Teams. You will then show the officer, via your tablet, phone or laptop what you are concerned about.
For enforcement cases
The enforcement officer will create a meeting which you can join in the same way as outlined above. However there will be no need for the Enforcement Officer to send you a plan in advance.
Am I eligible?
You are only eligible for a virtual site meeting in the following circumstances:
- You have a device take you can use;
- Your internet connection is strong;
- Your WiFi signal reaches every part of your property or garden without losing internet connection (you may want to think about using a portable tethering device);
- You have downloaded and successfully used Windows Teams;
- You understand the basics of how to use Windows Teams;
- The application has been not advertised in the local newspaper;
The Council do not take responsibility for damage to any equipment that may occur during this process.
If the above does not apply to you then we will visit the site in person at a point when it is safe for the planning or enforcement officer to do so. It is possible that the virtual site visits may not be sufficient for the planning officer to fully understand the impact of the proposal. It is at the officer's discretion whether the details obtained from the virtual site visit will allow them to make a recommendation on an application. In some cases an in person site visit may still be required.
What do I need?
For the Applicant/Agent
Please email your planning officer or email@example.com with the planning application reference number to request a virtual site meeting. Please put in the email's subject box, 'Virtual Site Visit Request - agent/applicant'.
For a neighbour
Please email your planning officer or firstname.lastname@example.org with the planning application reference number to request a virtual site meeting. Please put in the email's subject box, 'Virtual Site Visit Request - neighbour'
The ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis could well impact ecological surveys required in support of planning applications. The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management currently advises its members that "in line with the current advice of UK governments to restrict unnecessary travel and contact with others, it is likely that most ecological survey work and Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) work will need to be postponed".
It is too early in this period of restrictions to apply a blanket relaxation of ecological survey requirements and the advice remains that surveys should be completed prior to determination. As such, applicants should consider delaying submission of their application until all required surveys can be completed.
The main survey season potentially at risk is Great Crested Newts - if applicants do not wish to wait to see if they can complete surveys within the timeframe or if restrictions continue, they may find the District Level Licencing route provides an alternative option.
Other species surveys would not appear to be immediately impacted - please see the survey season timetable within the Natural England protected species standing advice.
Please note that the bat activity survey season period is incorrect as the bat survey guidelines have since been updated and the survey season is April to October - all other dates are correct.
Applicants can find further information at Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.
Due to COVID-19 related restrictions, it will take longer to determine your application. We are not able to determine applications where a site visit is deemed necessary by the planning officer but has not been made because of restrictions on travel. We thank you for your patience during this difficult time.
In light of government guidance site visits will not be possible until the government allow normal working practices to resume.
We continue to provide searches and have now changed our process to allow completed searches to be sent electronically to you.
The Secretary of State has advised that a change of use from a cafe, restaurant or pub to a takeaway will now be permitted development for a temporary period of 1 year (expiring 23rd March 2021). You won't need to apply for planning permission for a takeaway if the property in question is already used as a pub, restaurant or cafe. You may also extend this one year period by a further year. In order to benefit from this you must first notify us via email of the following:
- The address of the property in question
- The start date of the takeaway use
- Your contact details including email and telephone number
Please note that the use as a takeaway must cease on 23rd March 2021 or 23rd March 2022 (if you have a 1 year extension). The use of the premises should then revert to its last authorised use before the takeaway use started. We may take enforcement action in cases where this has not been done.
This permitted development for takeaways will not apply if you have a condition attached to a planning permission for your property which specifically restricts the use of the premises as a takeaway. You can find this by looking at the planning history of your premises using our public access tool.
The permitted development for takeaways will also not apply to any other use other than the specified A3/A4 use (Cafe, Restaurants and Pubs).
The Secretary of State has advised that a positive approach should be taken in respect of supermarket deliveries so that supermarkets can more easily address the high demand for groceries. The Council will not take enforcement action where deliveries are not in keeping with planning conditions controlling hours of delivery.
Hastings Borough Council will have to suspend its response time to Stage 1 and Stage 2 complaints as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
We've taken this step in the wider public interest.
We are protecting the capacity of our staff to deliver vital frontline services. Many of our staff have been re-allocated to work in the community to assist those who are most vulnerable.
The Planning Inspectorate has been looking at ways they can continue to progress casework whilst adhering to the important restrictions in place around social distancing measures and non-essential travel. Like many local authorities, they are considering how they might best continue to work whilst still meeting their statutory and non-statutory requirements.
If you have an appeal or want to write to the Planning Inspectorate about someone else's appeal, the best way to do this is via the Appeals Casework Portal whenever possible. The Planning Inspectorate's offices are closed and they are unable to receive postal representations. For more information on how to best to correspond with them during this time and to submit representations, they ask that you visit their website.
The General Permitted Development Order 2015 has been amended and introduces a new Part 12 A, Class A into Schedule 2 of the Order.
The measures being brought forward by this instrument are intended to allow development that can assist in addressing the Government priority of responding to the spread of coronavirus by local authorities. The new permitted development right allows local authorities and health service bodies to carry out development, both works and change of use, of facilities required in undertaking their roles to respond to the spread of coronavirus, without a requirement to submit a planning application.
We have received several queries regarding constructions sites that appear not to be following the social distancing rules. If you are concerned, please contact the Police who are authorised to issue fines where appropriate. The Planning Service is not able to intervene in this matter.
This information will be relevant to you if you have been granted planning permission but the expiry date of that permission is near and you are not able to implement the permission because of the lockdown. The current legislation does not allow for the life of a planning application to be extended. It is possible that the Government may introduce legislation to change this. This page is updated regularly so please do check again to see if there is any change. In the meantime unfortunately if you are unable to start works within the 3 year timeframe of the planning permission, you will unfortunately need to reapply for planning permission.
Natural England provides consultation responses to some of our applications. Therefore it's important for applicants to understand how Natural England is working during the COVID-19 crisis. In all areas of work, Natural England is following government guidance and taking all steps necessary to protect our staff and to help prevent the spread of the virus.
For further details on the way Natural England is working at the moment, please go to the Natural England website.
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