Questions and answers on the 14 July 2020 announcement on preventing loss of cultural venues and planning conditions for holiday parks.
Applies to England
What is the purpose of this written ministerial statement?
On 14 July 2020, the government published a written ministerial statement to support the culture and tourism sectors by both preventing the loss of theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues, and encouraging local planning authorities to exercise their discretion in relation to planning conditions for caravan, campsites and holiday parks. This statement sets out the approach local planning authorities should take to decision making for these venues that have been made temporarily vacant by Covid-19 business disruption. The statement also encourages local planning authorities not to undertake enforcement action which would unnecessarily restrict the ability of caravan, campsites and holiday parks to extend their open season.
The statement comes into effect on 14 July 2020 and will remain in place until 31 December 2022 unless superseded by a further statement.
Decision-making in relation to theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues
What is a live music performance venue?
For the purpose of this statement, live music performance venues are land or buildings wholly or mainly used for the performance of live music for the purpose of entertaining an audience. This can include grassroots music venues where the performance of live music is the primary use.
Land or buildings where the primary use is not the performance of live music (e.g. a restaurant or public house) should not be considered a live music performance venue.
Who are the statutory consultees for these venues?
The Theatres Trust is a statutory consultee under the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (S.I 2015/595) for applications seeking to develop any land where there is a theatre and will have an opportunity to comment on any application relating to theatres.
The Music Venue Trust is not a statutory consultee, but local planning authorities may wish to consult them when considering applications for change of use or demolition of a live music performance venue.
In what circumstances does this statement apply?
This statement applies to theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues where their primary use has been temporarily discontinued as a result of Covid-19 business disruption. This includes venues where a tenant has experienced business failures as a result of Covid-19, but where the venue would otherwise support a commercially viable business.
Does this statement apply to venues that have been long term vacant?
Where the primary use of a venue has become permanently discontinued or discontinuance is unrelated to Covid-19 business disruption, applications for change of use or demolition should be considered in the normal way. Access guidance on supporting more effective use of land
Is the Secretary of State still able to call-in applications for theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues?
Yes. Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 empowers the Secretary of State to call in a planning application for his own determination. The power can be exercised at any time up to planning permission being issued by a local planning authority. The Secretary of State will normally only do this if the application conflicts with national policy in important ways, or is nationally significant.
See further guidance on call-in of planning applications.
Extension to the open season of a caravan, campsite or holiday park for a temporary period
What should caravan, campsite and holiday park owners do if they wish to extend their open season beyond the usual summer season in the winter for a temporary period?
Where the open season of a caravan, campsite or holiday park is limited by planning condition, park owners are encouraged to speak to their local planning authority before submitting an application to extend their opening beyond the usual summer season for a temporary period.
Pre-application engagement can improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system and improve the quality of planning applications and their likelihood of success. Local planning authorities can also advise whether a planning application is necessary.
Where there may be particular concerns about flooding or the impact on a protected site, applicants are also encouraged to seek advice from the Environment Agency and Natural England respectively, before submitting an application.
How can site owners make an application?
Under section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, caravan, campsite and holiday parks can submit an application to local planning authorities to vary or remove conditions associated with a planning permission. A successful s.73 application results in the grant of a new planning permission and therefore the original permission remains intact. When determining a s.73 application, the local planning authority may impose conditions beyond those proposed in the application. However, the conditions imposed should only be ones which could have been imposed on the original grant.
Does a s73 planning application require an Environmental Impact Assessment?
A section 73 application is considered to be a new application for planning permission under the 2017 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations. The local planning authority will need to determine if an EIA is necessary. Where an EIA was carried out on the original application, the planning authority will need to consider if further information needs to be added to the original Environmental Statement to satisfy the requirements of the EIA Regulations. Whether changes to the original Environmental Statement are required or not, an Environmental Statement must be submitted with a section 73 application for an EIA development.
What should local planning authorities do if they receive an application to vary planning conditions to permit opening beyond the usual summer season for a temporary period?
Where local planning authorities consider it appropriate to require an application to vary relevant planning conditions (where for instance there is a risk of flooding or where parks are situated close to protected sites) they should prioritise the application and make an early decision to provide certainty to caravan, campsite and holiday park operators. In doing so, they should consider the benefits of longer opening season times for a temporary period to the local economy as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19.
Who must a local planning authority consult if they receive an application?
Local planning authorities are required to undertake a formal period of public consultation, prior to deciding a planning application. This is prescribed in article 15 of the Development Management Procedure Order (as amended). Depending on the type of development proposed these consultees may include neighbouring landowners, parish councils and relevant statutory consultees.
The Environment Agency are statutory consultees for development, other than minor development that is in Flood Zones 2 and 3, or in Flood Zone 1 which has critical drainage problems. Natural England are statutory consultees for development that is likely to affect a site of special scientific interest.
Will permission be granted if the caravan park is in a flood protection zone, or near an SSSI?
Statutory consultees and other third parties can suggest conditions to mitigate potential impacts and make a development acceptable in planning terms. The decision as to whether it is appropriate to impose such conditions rests with the local planning authority.
What does this mean for caravan site licences?
All existing site licences and any conditions attached to them will remain in force. Local authorities could decide to alter any conditions attached to a licence to reflect any new planning requirements, but this will be subject to consultation with the owner who has a right of appeal against the decision.
Do local planning authorities have to take enforcement action if there is a breach of planning condition?
The National Planning Policy Framework already emphasises that planning enforcement is a discretionary activity, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. Given the current situation, while local planning authorities must have regard to their legal obligations, they should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would unnecessarily restrict the ability of caravan, campsite and holiday parks to extend their open season. However, careful consideration should be given where these sites have restrictions related to winter flood risk.
Can caravan occupants use their caravans as a permanent residence if they have no alternative accommodation (because of the impact of coronavirus)?
The government is aware that there are people who for a variety of reasons do not currently have access to a permanent residence and may use holiday caravan parks for interim or main residential purposes. Whilst the government does not comment on any potential breach of licensing and planning conditions, our priority during the Covid-19 pandemic must be the safety of the public and the containment of the virus.
The National Planning Policy Framework already emphasises that planning enforcement is a discretionary activity, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.
Given the current situation, while local planning authorities must have regard to their legal obligations, they are encouraged to exercise their discretion and not seek to undertake planning enforcement action to ensure that wherever possible families and vulnerable people are not displaced at this time. However, careful consideration should be given where these sites have restrictions related to winter flood risk.
Further information can be found in this recent Ministerial letter to caravan site owners and local authorities.