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Social Housing Guidance

The Social Housing team advise on all the issues affecting this sector in the contentious and non-contentious areas.

It’s going to be tough – find the latest updates to help see you through some challenging times ahead.

3 July 2020 - New Business and Planning Bill 2019-21 aims to try and prevent developments from stalling due to COVID-19

On 25 June 2020, the Business and Planning Bill 2019-21 received its first reading in the House of Commons. The aim of the Bill is to try and prevent developments from stalling due to COVID-19. Proposed planning measures include:

  • Extending the expiration of certain planning permissions and listed building consents until 1 April 2021.
  • Providing the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) with the flexibility to use more than one procedure type when dealing with a planning appeal.
  • Introducing a new route for developers to vary planning conditions dealing with construction site working hours to temporarily allow extended working hours for a set period of time.

The government has asked Parliament to expedite the progress of this Bill to enable the measures to become law before the summer recess. On 30 June 2020, the Bill had completed all its stages in the House of Commons and will now go to the House of Lords for consideration.  For more information click here

In addition, on 23 June 2020, the Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/632) were made (click here for more information). Significantly, the Regulations introduce permitted development rights to enable the construction of new dwellinghouses on detached blocks of flats (subject to conditions and limitations) and ensure that local planning authorities consider the provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms when considering changes of use to dwellinghouses under the permitted development regime.

COVID-19: MHCLG confirms automatic extension to planning permissions that have expired or will expire during the period 23 March 2020 to 31 December 2020

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed that planning permissions that have expired or will expire between “the start of lockdown and the end of this year” will have an extension to 1 April 2021.

Full planning permission is usually granted subject to a condition requiring the development to be started within a specified time period. This is usually three years from the date of the permission (section 91, Town and Country Planning Act 1990). If development is not started within the specified time period, the permission expires and a new planning permission is required. Once a planning permission has expired, getting a new planning permission may be difficult or more expensive.

The government estimates that by the end of June 2020 alone, more than 400 residential planning permissions providing more than 24,000 new homes will expire if this measure is not introduced.

In addition, the government confirmed that the Planning Inspectorate will be allowed to use more than one procedure (written representations, hearings and inquiries) at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal.

Read the full update here

5 June 2020 - PINS updates guidance on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) published an update on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events.

PINS office in Temple Quay House remains closed and is not able to receive visitors in person.

In relation to local plan examinations, PINS is:

  • Currently working with two local planning authorities (LPAs) to hold virtual local plan hearing sessions.
  • Asking planning inspectors to explore with LPAs and programme officers how each current examination can best move forward ensuring fair participation, including at the hearing stages.
  • Where local plan hearings have concluded, asking LPAs to discuss with the planning inspector, through the programme officer, how consultations on main modifications can go ahead.
  • Where all the hearings have taken place and consultation on main modifications have concluded, asking planning inspectors to continue to work on, and issue, their final reports.

In relation to nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) events, examinations are continuing via written/email submissions and the publication of documents online. PINS is now notifying parties where events will be conducted via telephone and video-conference.

Where circumstances make it difficult for written submissions to be made, the examining authority may exercise discretion on any existing deadlines and will notify potential changes to timetables in the light of the emerging situation via the project specific webpage.

Unaccompanied site inspections have re-started following changes in government guidance. Where the examining authority considers an accompanied site inspection is necessary this will be undertaken in line with government advice on social distancing.

Read the full update here

15 May 2020 - Government issues guidance to local authorities on reopening household waste and recycling centres

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have issued non-statutory guidance to local authorities on reopening household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance provides that HWRCs can legally be open and that people can leave their homes to take bulk rubbish to HWRCs where it cannot be stored safely at home or disposed of through other legitimate routes. Safe storage means the waste can be stored without risking injury or health or causing harm. Local authorities are encouraged to re-open HWRCs where it is safe to do so, and social distancing requirements can be observed. Where possible, the range of materials accepted at HWRCs should be similar to that under a normal service.

The guidance explains the issues that local authorities should consider before re-opening HWRCs (such as the health and safety of HWRC workers and householders) and links to further government guidance and guidance by other bodies.

Read the full guidance here –

Letter to Councils on the re-opening of household waste centres

Guidance on prioritising waste collection services during Coronavirus Pandemic

15 May 2020 - Government publishes guidance on the community infrastructure levy and section 106 agreements

On 13 May 2020, the government published guidance for local authorities on the community infrastructure levy and section 106 agreements.

In relation to the community infrastructure levy (CIL), key points include:

  • Asking charging authorities to introduce a CIL instalment policy (or amend an existing instalment policy) to ease financial pressures on developers.
  • Asking collecting authorities to use their discretion when dealing with the late payment of CIL, for example, by choosing not to impose a surcharge.
  • Amending the CIL Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/948) to give authorities more discretion to defer payments; to temporarily disapply late payment interest; and to return to developers interest already charged (where appropriate).

With regard to section 106 planning obligations, authorities are being encouraged to consider whether it would be appropriate to allow the developer to defer payment of financial contributions and are also being asked to take a pragmatic and proportionate approach to the enforcement of planning obligations.

Read the full guidance here

1 May 2020 - Planning Inspectorate (PINS) schedules first digital hearing

On 28 April 2020, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) published an update on how planning appeals are being progressed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Physical site visits have been postponed until the middle of May, as well as most hearings and inquiries where these were due to be held in May.

PINS is progressing appeals where:

  • The physical event was concluded prior to lockdown restrictions.
  • No physical event is required to make a decision.
  • A physical event is further in the future and preparatory activity can continue (for example, via telephone case conferences).

New planning appeals are still being registered.

PINS has prioritised implementing digital events to progress appeals during this time. The first digital hearing is scheduled to take place on 11 May 2020. The number of cases to be processed digitally is expected to increase from June/July 2020.

Postponed appeals will be re-assessed to see whether a digital, traditional or a hybrid approach can be used.

PINS is also trialling virtual site visits.

9 April 2020 - Guidance for private and social landlords

The Government has published

Guidance for private and social landlords

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has published information on what housing associations have been doing in response to the outbreak and what the priorities are. Included in the briefing note is the NHF’s key ask from government.

https://www.housing.org.uk/globalassets/files/resource-files/coronavirus-policy-briefing—nhf-response-and-current-priorities.pdf