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Local authorities and health bodies handed new permitted development right to deal with COVID-19 emergency

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has introduced a new permitted development right for local authorities and certain health service bodies in England to carry out development with a view to tackling the coronavirus emergency.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Coronavirus) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 came into force at 10 am on 9 April 2020. 

Article 3 inserts a new Part 12A and permitted development right into Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (“the GDPO”) (S.I. 2015/596).

This will allow local authorities and certain health service bodies to carry out development on land owned, leased, occupied or maintained by them for the purposes of—

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(a) preventing an emergency;

(b) reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency; or

(c) taking other action in connection with an emergency.

For these purposes, an emergency is an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom.

The development permitted is subject to conditions which are also set out in the new Part 12A. This also outlines where development is not permitted by Class A.

The Explanatory Memorandum sets out that the amendment made by this instrument provides permitted development rights for development which could be used for the provision of additional temporary health and local authority facilities until 31 December 2020. Any extension of this period will require a further Statutory Instrument.

“Temporary permission until the end of 2020 allows sufficient time for the NHS and local authorities, who in the short term have to focus resources on their response to the spread of coronavirus, to determine their needs going forward and, if necessary, make an application for planning permission for longer term use which will be considered by the local planning authority in line with local and national policy,” the memorandum says.

It adds: “The country is undergoing a time of critical challenge for its health and care services in responding to the spread of coronavirus. To enable local councils and health service bodies to respond and provide facilities to limit its spread, treat, test, care for and manage the recovery of an extremely high number of patients and to provide additional mortuary facilities where necessary a new time-limited national permitted development right is being introduced.

“This right recognises that the detail of any development required will not necessarily be known in advance and as such provides a broad right that recognises the emergency nature of the responses required. The right will enable development including, but not limited to, the change of use of existing premises; erection of temporary buildings, structures, plant and machinery; vehicle parking and storage space.”

The explanatory memorandum says that the right also recognises that both local authorities and health service bodies are accountable public bodies who will make choices in terms of the location and nature of any new facilities that are both necessary and proportionate in the public interest.

“As publicly accountable bodies, they are expected to make reasonable judgement as to the benefits and impact of development in particular locations for the provision of additional facilities.”

For Wales, the relevant statutory instrument made by the Welsh Ministers was The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (Wales) Order 2020. This came into effect on 30 March.

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