England planning news, June 2020

01 Jun 2020



Headline news


New legislation and guidance issued in response to COVID-19

On 13 May the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) introduced temporary changes to the publicity procedures certain planning related applications and issued several updates to planning guidance.
Temporary publicity arrangements
The amendments made by the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure, Listed Buildings and Environmental Impact Assessment) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 apply, until 31 December 2020, to certain applications including those made to local planning authorities for:
  1. planning permission (including planning permission for EIA development and planning permission for development affecting the setting of a listed building or the character or appearance of a conservation area);
  2. listed building consent; and
  3. variation or discharge of conditions attached to listed building consent.
The temporary Regulations amend the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (DMPO), the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Regulations 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.  They do not apply only to applications submitted on or after 14 May, so can be used in respect of applications stuck in the system for some time due to publicity requirements.
The amended publicity requirements do not apply to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and the Government says it is working closely with consenting Departments, the Planning Inspectorate and National Infrastructure Planning Association to minimise the impact of current restrictions.
MHCLG also published a written statement and several updates to guidance on COVID-19 covering:
  1. Validation and publicity of applications
  2. Site visits
  3. Digitisation of planning including casework and meetings
  4. Existing and proposed flexibilities for the collection of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and enforcement of planning obligations
  5. More flexible working hours on construction sites
  6. Reviewing Statements of Community Involvement and updating them as required
More details on the current position on each of the above are provided in our Guide to the COVID-19 implications for law and policy in England

The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure, Listed Buildings and Environmental Impact Assessment) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020MHCLG, Coronavirus (COVID-19): planning update, 13 May 2020MHCLG, Coronavirus (COVID-19): construction update Q&A, 13 May 2020



Quotes of the month

We know that building 100,000 new homes contributes 1% of GDP. We also know that the construction sector employs 3.2 million people. We want to push ahead as safely as possible within Public Health England guidance.
Lord Greenhalgh in a House of Lords debate on Housing and Construction Sectors, 14 May 2020


Planning Inspectorate update

At the end May the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) provided an update on the measures it was taking to progress appeals at the current time.
It anticipates that during June ten planning hearings, eight inquiries and fifteen NSIP project hearings (associated with four projects) will take place and PINS will reorganise “the vast majority” of hearings. Remaining inquiries will take place “as soon as possible”.
A local plan hearing will also take place in June and a local plan examination (South Oxfordshire) will be conducted remotely in July.
PINS used the update to confirm that post COVID-19 face-to-face events will resume.

Planning Inspectorate news story, 28 May 2020

Extending planning permissions, CIL and other changes still on the way

Perhaps the current most pressing planning-related matter for the development sector is the need for planning permissions to be extended. In Scotland, new, temporary legislation has already extended the life of planning permissions, conservation area consents and listed building consents that expire during an ‘emergency period’.
For England, a statement from Lord Greenhalgh in the Lords and a written answer from the Housing Minister both say:
“The Government are aware, from both local planning authorities and the development industry, that there are delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a risk of unimplemented planning permissions collapsing and therefore undermining the delivery of projects. We recognise these concerns and are considering whether permissions should be extended”.
It is understood that this is being prioritised, in order that legislation can be made before the summer recess.  However, what is not clear is whether such an extension will apply to the time limits for submission of reserved matters, time limits for completions of prior approvals and implementation time limits for listed building consents.
With regard to the future, Lord Greenhalgh said in a House of Lords housing debate “[…] as a result of this pandemic, it is estimated that house prices have fallen by somewhere between 10% and 30%. We need to understand that the way to deal with the housing crisis is the provision of new homes and ensure that we facilitate those second moves so that the whole housing market gets going again”.
Over the last few weeks Government rhetoric has emphasised the importance of the construction sector and delivery of housing. In terms of supporting the housing market, and of relevance to the viability of proposed developments, the SoS said:
“today is too soon to judge with confidence the state of the housing market because there have been so few transactions in recent weeks. However, we stand ready to work with the industry and to help to guide it through what will undoubtedly be an extremely challenging period”.
In a written question Baroness Thornhill asked whether the Government had considered adjusting the housing delivery test methodology or its one million homes in five years target.  The reply suggested not yet:
“Over the last few days we are beginning to see more developers reopening sites following careful consideration of public health guidance. […] We note the concerns some authorities are raising on the housing delivery test and we will continue to monitor the situation”.
In a reply to a different question the Housing Minister said:
“We note the concerns some authorities are raising on 5 year housing land supply and we will continue to monitor the situation”.
And when asked how the Government plans to support housing market recovery the Housing Minister referred to ‘a package of housing reforms’, which would probably include ‘Planning for the Future.  He also confirmed that the Government is looking at guidance that would allow Help to Buy to be extended. A written answer by Lord Greenhalgh of 28 May says:
“To support customers, Help to Buy Equity Loan Agents are already offering more time for purchasers to complete their transactions. Homes England released this guidance on 1 May”.
Lord Greenhalgh also advised the House of Lords that he believed the accessible homes consultation is with the SoS at present and the Government hoped to consult on it as soon as possible. In the same debate he also acknowledged:
“We need to remember that we need housing of all types, including that for last-time buyers. Countries such as Germany have invested heavily in ​retirement homes, and we need to ensure that that is part of our plans in future”. 

UK Parliament, Help to Buy Scheme: Coronavirus:Written question - HL4509UK Parliament, Local Plans: Coronavirus:Written question - 45303UK Parliament, Housing: Construction:Written question - HL3093UK Parliament, Covid-19: Housing Market, 28 April 2020UK Parliament, Covid-19: Housing, 18 May 2020UK Parliament, Housing and Construction Sectors, 14 May 2020

Permitted development rights for upward extensions

‘Planning for the Future’, the Government’s planning reform paper, published in March, said that permitted development rights for upwards extensions would be in force by Summer 2020.
In a response to a written question the Housing Minister indicated that this remains the intention, with no further consultation to be undertaken.

Lichfields, Planning for the Future: in it for the long run, extended permitted development rights House of Lords written questions and answers, Housing: Construction, answered 14 May 2020

When to argue that a listed building is not a building

The Supreme Court has overturned a Court of Appeal judgement and concluded that one can argue that a building should not have been listed, because it is not a building, at enforcement appeal stage.

Dill v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and another (2020) also gives a view on factors to consider when determining whether a structure or erection, in a heritage context, is a building.

According to the judgement, the Grade II listed buildings in this case are “a pair of early 18th century lead urns resting on limestone pedestals”, each listed in their own right in the 1980s.  At the time of listing they were situated either side of the driveway of Idlicote House in Warwickshire (itself separately Grade II listed, in the 1960s).  Removed from their first home in 1939, Idlicote House was the urns’ fifth home.

There is no record of the reasons why the urns were listed and their owner, Mr Dill, did not know that they were listed; he sold them, in 2009, and they were removed by crane and eventually exported (according to the Court of Appeal judgement).

In 2014, the local planning authority noticed their removal, refused retrospective listed building consent and served a listed building enforcement notice requiring the urns’ return. A planning inspector refused Mr Dill’s listed building and enforcement appeals.

One of Mr Dill’s grounds of appeal was that the urns his father had moved to Idlicote House in the 1970s were not buildings, and therefore not listed buildings, and so his enforcement appeal should be allowed.

The Supreme Court says that the Inspector took the view, in summary, that the status of the items as “buildings” was established by the listing; that he could not reconsider that issue; and, that issues of property law or the so-called Skerritts tests of size, permanence and degree of annexation […] were irrelevant. The view that the status of the item as a building was not open to challenge was upheld by […] the High Court [...] and by the Court of Appeal.”

The Supreme Court thought very much to the contrary:

No convincing reason was offered as to why the question whether something qualifies as a “building” should be treated in a different way in the listed building context [to the planning enforcement context]. One advantage of allowing these issues to be dealt with through the planning appeal route is that it enables the inspectorate, with appropriate legal advice, to develop workable criteria on a case-by-case basis”.

The Supreme Court also noted that Section 1(5) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 provides that for the purposes of that Act, a listed building is i) a building and ii) included within the statutory list - if it is not a building including it on the statutory list cannot make it a building.

“There is nothing [in the Act] to prevent the accused arguing that the item on the list is not a “building” and so not within the definition. Short of a specific provision that the listing is to be treated as “conclusive” for such purposes, there is no reason to displace the ordinary presumption that the accused may raise any relevant defence”.

If it was decided at appeal that there had been no listed building, there could be no offence and the SoS has the power to remove the item from the list.

On this basis the appeal succeeded and has been remitted for redetermination by a planning inspector. The Court did not rule on whether or not the urns are buildings, but discussed the relevant considerations.

It found that the urns are not buildings under a ‘real property’ test because they were not related to the design of Idlicote House and its setting.

Following Skerritts of Nottingham the tests of whether or not a structure is a building, in a planning context, are size, permanence and physical attachment. Given that for the purposes of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 “building” is defined by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Supreme Court concluded the Skerritts criteria for identifying a “building” are also relevant in a listed building context.

The judgment provides arguments both ways for considering whether or not the urns formerly owned by Mr Dill are buildings under the Skerritts test, but Lord Carnwarth decided “I do not think it is possible or appropriate for us to reach a concluded view on how those tests should be applied in this case”.

However, the redetermination of the appeal may or may not happen, given the Lord Carnwarth’s view that:

“this court’s formal order for remittal should not prevent the respondents from giving serious consideration to whether in all the circumstances it is fair to Mr Dill or expedient in the public interest to pursue this particular enforcement process any further”.

It was also noted:

“This case has revealed a disturbing lack of clarity about the criteria which have been adopted by the relevant authorities, not only in this instance but more generally, in determining whether free-standing items such as these are regarded as qualifying for listing protection, whether as ‘curtilage structures’, or as separate ‘buildings’ as in this case. Even now, in spite of the issue having been raised by Mr Dill in 2015, and after a planning appeal and three court hearings, he has had no official explanation of the criteria by which it was determined that these items qualified as ‘buildings’”.

Lichfields’ Heritage team will shortly issue a blog that will consider the implications of Dill.

Dill v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and another (2020)Historic England, hosting the Planning Inspectorate’s appeal decisions relating to Idlicote House, January 2017

Council could conclude a development accorded with the local plan as a whole

The Court of Appeal has confirmed that a local planning authority was entitled to conclude that a proposal complied with its development plan when read as a whole, albeit that it did not comply with a landscape protection policy within the plan.

The High Court had quashed a planning permission granted by Cornwall Council to extend a caravan park within an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) by adding 15 caravans, 15 lodges and associated works; the Court of Appeal has overturned that judgment. 

The development plan includes a policy that says development should not harm an AGLV (saved Policy 14) and a policy that essentially says development should respect Cornwall's "natural environment", including its landscape (policy 23).  Thare are also development plan policies which provide for accommodating growth where there are economic benefits and allowing business and tourism development in the countryside that are either of an appropriate scale on their own or are an extension of existing businesses (Cornwall Local Plan policies 2 and 5).

The High Court judge held:

“I have reached the conclusion that the development plan read as a whole, including saved Policy 14, does not permit a development that would cause harm to the landscape, features and characteristics of an AGLV covered by that policy. It follows that a determination granting planning permission for such a development would be a determination not in accordance with the development plan”.


“[…] those making the decision under challenge did not appreciate that they were making a decision which did not accord with the development plan, and did not identify or assess any relevant material considerations for departing from the development plan. For those reasons the decision under challenge was unlawful”.

In the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lindblom, with whom Lord Justices Leggatt and Lewison agreed, disagreed with the High Court judge because “he was wrong to hold that the proposal's conflict with Policy 14 prevented the council from concluding, on the officer's advice, that a decision to approve it was in accordance with the development plan. He was also wrong to hold that in this respect the reasoning in the officer's report was at fault”.

Lord Justice Lindblom concluded that saved Policy 14 does not have primacy over policies among the other relevant policies of the development plan, which would mean “any breach of that policy, however slight, will always be conclusive when the decision-maker is considering whether a particular proposal is in accordance with the plan as a whole. That understanding of Policy 14 would not only be an unrealistic and unnecessary constraint on the decision-maker's performance of the section 38(6) duty; it is also incorrect as a matter of construction”

He qualified this by saying he was not ruling that breach of a single policy of a development plan can never be capable of amounting to conflict with the plan as a whole.

The policies were pulling in different directions and the local planning authority had to decide which to give greater weight; the case officer did not misinterpret the policies or their interaction with each other, or err in her approach to section 38(6).

“Under section 38(6) the members' task was not to decide whether, on an individual assessment of the proposal's compliance with the relevant policies, it could be said to accord with each and every one of them. They had to establish whether the proposal was in accordance with the development plan as a whole. Once the relevant policies were correctly understood, which in my view they were, this was classically a matter of planning judgment for the council as planning decision-maker”.

The judgment reviewed the main factors in the exercise of the planning balance and concluded:

“Put simply, […] the proposal's compliance with Policy 5 prevailed over its conflict with Policy 14 and Policy 23, and, in the absence of conflict with any other policy, a decision to approve it was a determination made "in accordance with the development plan"”

The Court of Appeal also considered whether the Council had acted unlawfully by not identifying a policy regarding development of housing in the countryside to be relevant, but concluded that a suitably worded condition showed the Council’s intention to ensure that the holiday units were not used as main residences and would not, therefore, be housing in the countryside.

“The council did not misconceive the relevant policies of its plan, and did not apply them unlawfully. Its decision was clearly explained in the officer's report. The grant of planning permission should not have been quashed”.

R. (on the application of William Corbett) v The Cornwall Council v Stephen Tavener (2020)

Secretary of State consents to his decision being quashed

The Secretary of State’s decision to approve 1,524 new homes across six towers reaching up to 44-storeys in height at the Westferry Printworks site in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) has been quashed with the judgment confirming it was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias”.

This story is covered in the Lichfields London Planning News

Lichfields London Planning News, June 2020


The Lichfields perspective


New Government guidance regarding potentially extending construction hours beyond those permitted will improve developers’ ability to bring forward new development and operate sites safely, provided that local authorities and the communities they serve acknowledge the Government’s proactive approach.

Ian Kettlewell, Planning Director 


Disclaimer: This publication has been written in general terms and cannot be relied on to cover specific situations. We recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from acting on any of the contents of this publication. Lichfields accepts no duty of care or liability for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication. Lichfields is the trading name of Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners Limited. Registered in England, no.2778116