COVID-19: The impact on planning permission and controls

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the government has announced that it will grant temporary permission for restaurants and pubs to operate as takeaways.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, has announced that temporary permitted development rights will be introduced as soon as possible to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways to serve people having to stay at home. Planning permission is normally required for businesses to operate as takeaways and the relaxation of this planning rule will enable restaurants and pubs to make this change without having to go through formal planning process. This measure follows government guidance that unnecessary social contact, including visiting pubs and restaurants should be avoided. The government plans to introduce these time-limited permitted development rights through secondary legislation.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has also urged councils not to enforce planning controls which unnecessarily restrict the time and number of deliveries to food retailers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a written statement published on 13 March 2020 which comes into effect immediately, Mr Jenrick states that local planning authorities should take a positive approach in their engagement with food retailers and distributors, as well as the freight industry, to ensure that planning controls are not a barrier to food deliveries during this crisis period.

Ordinarily, many supermarkets, food retailers and distribution centres are subject to controls through planning conditions, which restrict the time and number of deliveries from lorries and other delivery vehicles, particularly at night. These are necessary to making the development acceptable to local residents who might otherwise suffer from traffic, noise and other local amenity issues as a result of these deliveries.

Mr Jenrick acknowledged that the increased frequency of deliveries outside of working hours, particularly at night, may cause a temporary detrimental impact on local residents. However, he stated that the public interest of ensuring access to food and other necessary goods in local shops outweighs this temporary impact.

These measures are the latest in a series of practical steps the government is taking to support businesses and help people who need to self-isolate, as well as vulnerable groups and older people who have been strongly advised to avoid social contact outside their homes to prevent the spread of coronavirus.