New Emergency Permitted Development Rights to deal with Coronavirus

As of 10am 9th April 2020 an Order comes into effect to amend Permitted Development rights to allow local authorities and certain health service bodies (of which there is a long list including many NHS bodies and the Care Quality Commission (CQC)) to carry out development for dealing with emergencies.

This quickly follows changes to the Permitted Development Rights in Wales last week.

For those needing to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 situation, this will be welcomed. Since the crisis hit, a number of NHS bodies and local authorities have been approaching others including Registered Providers and operators of potentially suitable facilities for temporary use of their buildings to support the COVID-19 response, often involving an element of alteration and ‘development’ to adapt the facility to their needs. This Order will give some clarity as to the treatment of such development by the Local Planning Authorities and won’t just be of relevance to the widely reported Nightingale Hospitals which are being put in place.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Coronavirus) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 will amend the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, known as the GDPO will allow local authorities and certain health service bodies to carry out development on land owned, leased, occupied or maintained by it for the purposes of:

  1. preventing an emergency;
  2. reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency; or
  3. taking other actions in connection with an emergency.

For these purposes, an emergency is defined as an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom, which clearly seeks to capture the stark COVID-19 situation.

The development permitted is subject to conditions which include that the use of the land should cease by 31 December 2020 and that the land should be restored to its condition before development took place or to such other state as agreed with the local planning authority and developer.

The Order also contains a list of exclusions for reliance on this permitted development right including limitations on proximity to dwellinghouses and understandably limitations on scale of development. Most notably for any plans for new facilities/development in residential areas if any part of the development would be carried out within 5 metres of the boundary of the curtilage of a dwellinghouse the development will not be considered permitted development.

In addition to surge healthcare facilities which will benefit from these new temporary rights, we are also likely to see the need for other facilities such as additional care accommodation where step-down and reablement care can be provided to relieve pressure on bedspaces in hospitals and existing care homes at this time of crisis. Use of hotels, leisure facilities, hostels, keyworker accommodation and student accommodation and void housing stock occupying key locations for temporary use will no doubt also form part of considerations by local authorities and health service bodies.

For more information contact Caroline Mostowfi, Partner in our Real Estate Projects Team for further information.

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