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Coronavirus: Planning service updates

We understand that applicants and developers will be concerned about the implications of COVID-19 on our ability to process planning applications within statutory timescales.

We want to offer every assurance that we have taken and are taking appropriate measures to ensure that we remain open for business and deliver our services effectively to all our customers, while protecting the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families.

As a Council we recognise that it is important that we continue to provide the best service possible in these difficult times and as advised by the Secretary of State we should prioritise decision-making to ensure the planning system continues to function, especially where this will support the local economy.

In line with government guidance, we have put in place home working for all staff and all planning services continue to operate normally with minor changes as listed below. With the situation constantly changing we may need to make further changes to our service in due course and you should revisit this page for further updates.

Contacting Us

Our offices are closed to the public and you can reach us for general enquiries by emailing planning@horsham.gov.uk which is the preferred method of contact. If you are unable to email you can call us on 01403 215187 and leave a message. We will make every effort to return your contact in a reasonable time.

Case officers are contactable by email and we request where possible you make contact by email. Some officers may be working outside of business hours allowing them to care for dependants and may not be available to take your telephone call. Officers will be able to return your call if contact details are provided.

Submitting Applications

We are recommending that every effort should be made to avoid submitting anything to the department in paper as we cannot guarantee timescales for receipt or the processing of the information.  You can continue to submit planning applications online through www.planningportal.co.uk

Consultation Responses

The Government have not relaxed the timescales for the determination of planning applications and therefore our consultation methods and timescales for response remain the same

The council are operating a reduced postal service and we recommend all representations / comments are made through our online facility, which can you access on our View and comment on a planning application page or by emailing planning@horsham.gov.uk

Representations / comments made by post will be considered but there may be a delay in processing these.

Site Visits and Publicity

The safety of our staff is paramount and in line with government guidelines, our staff are not travelling unless essential and where this is the case, taking all necessary measures to minimise risk of infection and transmission to reduce personal contact. Considering this we will be undertaking only site visits where they are deemed essential.

There is no need for the applicant / agent to be present and social distancing will always be maintained. If you have any concerns about a site visit, speak to your case officer.

Site notices will continue to be displayed where required whilst maintaining social distancing and, in some cases, we may need to ask applicants to display site notices on our behalf. Your case officer will contact you with further information if this is the case.

Pre-Application Advice

The service will operate as normal except for site meetings and site visits. We expect meetings to be held remotely using Skype and ask applicants to provide a range of site photos for consideration.

Planning Committee

Following recent changes to legislation all council meetings can now take place without members being in the same room. We expect to hold our meetings in a virtual environment with immediate effect. We will send the usual notifications with information to interested parties on how you can take part in these meetings. Details on individual meetings will be posted on our meetings calendar page

Planning Appeals

In response to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), The Planning Inspectorate has published guidance on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events.

Planning Enforcement

A written ministerial statement was published on Friday 13 March 2020 which urged local planning authorities to apply pragmatism on the enforcement of restrictions on food and other essential deliveries at this time.

Our service is continuing to accept breaches of planning complaints and the team are remotely working. There may be a delay in investigation as we may not be able to undertake site visits where access is required at residential properties. We will assess the need for a site visit on a case by  case basis.

We are requesting that you submit photographs with any report of unauthorised development to enable us to process an investigation.

We will also use our discretion on the enforcement of other planning conditions which hinder the effective response to COVID-19.

While it is an offence not to comply with the requirements of an enforcement notice once the period for compliance has elapsed, and there is no outstanding appeal, we will assess the severity of the breach and balance the impact on those affected by a continuing breach against the public interest in holding off taking further action, in light of the current restrictions that are in force, as the reality is that the Courts will not have the capacity to deal with any new prosecutions, save for the most serious matters.

As such the Council may temporarily exercise its right under S173A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) whilst the current restrictions are in place, to vary the Notice either by waiving or relaxing any of the requirements of the Notice, until such time as the Courts are open once again to deal with prosecutions.

New permitted development rights for pubs, cafes and restaurants

The Government has introduced new permitted development rights for pubs (Use Class A4) and cafés & restaurants (Use Class A3) to operate solely for any use for the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises (Use Class A5). This right to change the use of premises is time limited for 12 months and expires on 23 March 2021 .

You will need to notify the council of this change of use; which you can do by e-mailing planning@horsham.gov.uk providing the address, business name, previous use and contact details. You will receive an acknowledgement from us.

The use of the premises prior to the change of use to food takeaway must be reinstated after the use as a food takeaway has ceased and this change of use is not possible if there are restrictions on the existing premises preventing it from being a takeaway. You can view any restrictions on the relevant planning decision notice.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

We are processing CIL in the normal way and liability notices are being issued as well as payments to Parish Councils still being sent as normal

If you have any concern regarding the payment of CIL please contact our CIL Team.

Will the Draft Local Plan Consultation (Regulation 18) be extended?

At this moment in time there has been no change to the Government’s requirements for Local Plan preparation. This includes a legal requirement to review Local Plans every 5 years. Although we will be discussing the possible impacts of the Covid -19 situation with the Government on Local Plan preparation, our current Local Plan will reach five years of age in November when our annual housing target will increase to 965 homes each year. It is therefore important that we continue to prepare the Local Plan to existing timeframes in order to meet our legal requirements.

Council asks Government to pause its Local Plan process

Our Strategic Planning team will be continuing their work on preparing a new Local Plan for the Horsham District. Visit our Local Plan web pages for more details