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 the Lockdown we advised you that officers would not be able to visit sites or erect site notices. As such in cases where the publicity on planning applications had not expired before the lockdown date (23rd March 2020), we made a decision to temporarily revert to the use of neighbour letters to advertise these applications. This decision was made in light of the exceptional circumstances we faced and on the basis that the use of neighbour letters would be temporary until a time when officers could recommence site visits.
We have now come to a point where we consider that officers can safely recommence site visits, subject to certain conditions including social distancing. We have therefore made a decision that as of Monday 8th June 2020, we will revert to the use of site notices to advertise applications that are registered from that date onwards. The only exception to this will be applications that were initially advertised using neighbour letters. Any amendments to these applications will be advertised in the same way for purposes of consistency. However ultimately all applications that are required to be advertised, will be advertised by means of a site notice.
Council meetings are now being held virtually and this includes planning committee meetings. Our officers will be in contact about how this works if you are due to partake in one of the virtual meetings.
Please check our virtual meeting webpage for more general information about how these virtual meetings work, and how you can view them as a member of the public or press.
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.
As of Monday 8th June Officers will be able to visit sites and erect site notices. We will therefore be reverting to the use of site notices for all applications registered from Monday 8th June 2020 onwards. For applications that were registered before 8th June 2020, where amended plans are submitted, these will be advertised through neighbour notification letters. Ultimately all applications will be advertised through site notices, where required to do so.
We will still offer virtual site visits whilst the corona pandemic remains. Please contact the Planning Officer or Enforcement Officer if this is your preferred option.
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 Microsoft 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 Microsoft 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.
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 (Cafes, 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.
On 13 May 2020, the government published a written ministerial statement on planning and construction working hours. This statement expects local planning authorities to approve requests to extend construction working hours temporarily to ensure safe working in line with social distancing guidelines until 9pm, Monday to Saturday, unless there are very compelling reasons against this.
Who will be able to benefit from this flexibility?
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 control imposed by the planning system only.
How can a developer benefit from this?
A developer wishing to amend their conditioned construction working hours should contact their local planning authority. They will be able to tell you whether they are happy to agree amended working hours informally, or whether you need to submit a formal application as well as through which route.
What is the process involved?
Where there are modest or short-term changes to construction working hours, this may be agreed informally with the local planning authority, and they should use their discretion to not enforce against a breach of working hours.
Where long or more significant changes to working hours are required, a formal application may be requested by the local planning authority. In doing so,?it will be important for?applicants?to?consider potential impacts and,?where necessary,?to put?forward?plans to manage concerns, drawing on existing good practice.
How will the local planning authority come to their decision?
We expect local planning authorities to be supportive of reasonable requests. Local authorities should accept proposals for extended working hours unless there are very strong reasons against this. They should ensure that decisions are issued within 10 days where possible.? We expect this to be a soft and user-friendly process and for guidance to be available on the local authority website.
In making their decision local planning authorities may consider where there are unreasonable impacts but they will be able to reject proposals only where there are very compelling?reasons. These reasons could include the significant impact on neighbouring businesses or uses, such as care homes, which are particularly sensitive to noise, dust or vibration, which cannot be overcome through other mitigation, or where impacts on densely populated areas would be?unreasonable.?
Will extensions to construction working hours into late evening or at weekends be allowed?
The aim is to allow construction work until 9pm, Monday to Saturday. Longer hours may be justified, especially if there are no residential dwellings nearby. However, local planning authorities will maintain local discretion, and where there are unreasonable impacts, they will be able to reject proposals to extend construction hours into the late night or on a Sunday. In all cases, sympathetic site management should be demonstrated.
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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