Coronavirus (COVID-19): planning update

An update on planning matters, including temporary measures to make it easier to operate the planning system.

Applies to England

This guidance provides advice to those working within the planning sector in accordance with step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown from 19 July 2021. Read the guidance on what you can and cannot do to keep safe.

Please also see the planning update newsletters which provide guidance and updates to chief planning officers of local planning authorities in England.

New time-limited permitted development rights

A new time limited emergency permitted development right came into force at 10am on 9 April 2020 until 31 December 2021. The right supports health service bodies and local authorities’ immediate response to coronavirus.

The right allows for development by or on behalf of a local authority or health authority body for the purposes of preventing an emergency; reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency; and taking other action in connection with an emergency.

The right enables development including, but not limited to, change of use for existing buildings and new temporary modular buildings. The rights could be suitable to provide permission for a range of uses including use as hospitals, health facilities, testing centres, coroner facilities, mortuaries, additional residential accommodation and storage and distribution, including for community food hubs.

As you will know, there is no application process, but health service bodies and local authorities who are not the planning authority are required only to notify the local planning authority of the use of the development on a site as soon as practicable after commencing development. We expect this will be by email or in writing.

Publicity and consultation for planning applications

Temporary regulations which were introduced last year to supplement the existing statutory publicity requirements for planning applications expired on the 30 June.

The temporary changes introduced, which relate to the requirements to provide a physical address where planning documents may be inspected or copies obtained, remain in force until 31 December 2021. Further guidance can be found in the planning practice guidance.

Local Plans

We continue to want to see Local Plans progressing through the system as a vital means for supporting economic recovery in line with the government’s aspirations to have plans in place across the country by 2023.

A written ministerial statement on 19 January 2021 sets out the importance of work continuing to advance Local Plans through to adoption by the end of 2023 to help ensure that the economy can rebound strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recognising the challenge that some local authorities may face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made changes to the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012, under the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, to remove the need for local authorities to make hard copy documents available for public inspection for a temporary period from 16 July 2020 until 31 December 2021.

We have also issued additional planning guidance on reviewing and updating Statements of Community Involvement.

Where to go for additional information

GOV.UK provides a single point of government advice on COVID-19. The public services section contains advice from the Planning Inspectorate on casework and examination handling, and we will be adding to this as guidance is updated, so please check the page regularly.

Best practice advice and links are also available on the Planning Advisory Service website.

We will provide further updates in due course.

Published 13 May 2020
Last updated 30 July 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect the move to step 4 of the roadmap.

  2. First published.