Coronavirus Outbreak Causes Major Planning Response

Following disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), there has been a major push for local authorities to ensure that planning controls are not a barrier to food deliveries, distributors and the freight industry. This comes as part of a wider government call asking everyone across the country to focus efforts on preventing wider spread.

In a written ministerial statement, communities secretary Robert Jenrick has ordered planning authorities not to carry out enforcement action that would cause the restriction of deliveries of food and other essential products during this difficult period. 

This move comes as the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) updated its guidance on hearings while two local plan examinations have been delayed in response to the outbreak.

Jenrick acknowledged that many food retailers, distribution centres and supermarkets in England are subject to controls on the time and number of deliveries – particularly at night. These include planning conditions, which are necessary to making the development acceptable to residents who might otherwise suffer from noise, traffic and other amenity issues as a result of these crucial deliveries.

“Given the exceptional challenges facing the UK from the coronavirus, however, it is vital that deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential products over the coming weeks can be made as quickly and safely as possible, minimising disruption to the supply chains on which our communities depend,” he said. “The likely pressures on driver capacity mean additional flexibility is needed so that retailers can accept deliveries throughout the day and night where necessary.”

Robert Jenrick

The government has admitted that the relaxation may have a “temporary impact” on residents, but this needed to be balanced by the significant public interest in ensuring that local residents have continued access to food, sanitary and other essential goods in their local shops.

The government will withdraw the statement once the coronavirus outbreak has subsided.

Jenrick’s move came as PINS published guidance on events, inquiries, site visits and hearings in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Its guidance will be kept under review and could change at short notice to reflect the government’s wider advice during this difficult time.

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