The government has extended planning permission deadlines across the construction industry, which typically expire after three years if work has not started onsite.
Planning permissions with an expiry date between the start of the lockdown and the end of 2020 will see the deadline extended until 1 April 2021.
Ian Fletcher, director of Real Estate Policy, British Property Federation, said: “An extension to planning permissions is a welcome boost for development sites across the country and something we have been working with government throughout lockdown to progress.
“It is vital to economic recovery that new investment continues to flow into our towns and cities, homes and high streets, and for those projects on rapidly expiring planning permissions over the coming months, this extension allows them to proceed with a little more leeway.
“Government should also continue to monitor the situation post April 2021 given the tremendous economic and operational challenges developers continue to face.”
The government has also enabled builders to agree flexible working hours on construction sites on a temporary basis. This will make it easier to follow public health guidelines by staggering builders’ arrival times.
The appeals process has also been changed. Measures will permanently grant the Planning Inspectorate the ability to use more than one procedure – written representations, hearings and inquiries – at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal.
Last year a pilot programme tested this approach and implemented recommendations of the Rosewell Review, which more than halved the time taken for appeal inquiries, from 47 weeks to 23 weeks.
Claire Dutch, partner and co-head of planning and environment at law firm Ashurst, said: “The choice of appeal format (written reps, hearing or inquiry) is an important one but many in the industry have considered the ‘siloed’ appeal system to be too rigid and inflexible.
“Today’s announcement has got to be a good thing. Costs and time will be saved by the ability to deal with some of the less contentious issues by written representations freeing up a parallel public inquiry to explore some of the more meaty and complex issues by cross examination of witness in a public format.”