Planning Services – Coronavirus (Covid-19) Update

Planning Service Update

The council not only understands the important role that the Planning System will play in assisting the recovery of the economy following the current period of social isolation, but also the importance of a planning service for smaller scale proposals for individual families and households. The council therefore continues to operate a Development Management (Planning) service but with staff now almost entirely home-based.

This has resulted in some changes to the way in which the service operates and, with the situation constantly evolving. We may need to make further changes in due course; you should revisit this page for further updates.

We have also experienced a spike in casework and all correspondence associated with our work. There may be some delays in getting back to you. Please bear with us: we are working as fast as possible to maintain our services.

Please note that our free Fast Track Planning Advice Service has been extended to September 2021.

Site Visits

From the 19th July 2021 officers will resume site visits to pre COVID arrangements. In the first instance these will be without prior appointment.

If you or anyone on site on site has tested positive for COVID or is showing any symptoms please advise the officer. 

While the easing of restrictions means that some safety measures will no longer be a legal requirement we’ve listened to our employees and we know a lot of people remain cautious. In line with the government advice to act carefully, we feel it is important to continue with certain measures to be on the safe side. 

Although the legal requirements to wear a face covering ends on 19th July, the government expects and recommends that people continue to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces. We encourage our colleagues to continue to wear face coverings if they choose to do so. 

If there are to be discussions with the officer keep a distance of at least 2 metres.

If an internal inspection is necessary (note that we may request photographs, certificates, additional specification as appropriate) then as a precaution:

  • Windows should be opened 30 minutes before arrival and left open after our visit. We will ask you to confirm this has been done.
  • Officers are empowered to make decisions as to whether to inspect or whether not to inspect.
  • Please ensure everyone is wearing a face covering.
  • Please ensure all doors and hatches are left open to avoid surface contact

Applicants are still asked to provide comprehensive photographs of the outside and inside of a property and/or relevant views out. To facilitate this and to assist with case assessments  the case officer may contact applicants to request photographs of particular elements of the site, and from certain vistas. We will also consider video footage where applicable.

If we are unable to visit a site, we will explain the reasons why. It is likely that without a site visit, those applications will not be able to be progressed. We will consider a range of options available, including long-term extensions of time or withdrawal of the application altogether.

If you are promoting a Prior Notification case which requires liaison with adjacent residents or other publicity, and we cannot fully assess the scheme we will invite you to agree to an extension or time in order to avoid rejecting cases

(UPDATE 19th July 2021)

From 22nd July 2020 the Government have introduced new regulations making it possible to apply to defer a CIL payment subject to a number of criteria. For more information please see our page Paying for CIL and COVID-19

As part of the Planning Service approach to supporting businesses and the local economy due to Covid-19 we are introducing a new free fast-track service for businesses that are making changes due to Covid-19 that may require planning permission (e.g. changes to the use of your outdoor space or provision of temporary structures).

General enquiries should be made through planning@wealden.gov.uk as normal. In order to ensure that you receive a response, a valid email address should be provided. A reduced post service is being sent from the Planning Service.

Case officers will be available by email, and this is the preferred method of contact. Contact by phone is still available although staff are working flexible hours, and therefore we would ask that wherever possible you communicate with officers via e-mail. Officers will be able to phone you back, if required and contact details are provided.

Our twitter feed @WDC_Planning provides news, updates and information from the Planning department however this account is not always monitored. Please send all messages to planning@wealden.gov.uk

We have experienced a spike in caseloads and with correspondence associated in all casework.  There maybe some delays, but please bear with us: we are working as fast as possible to maintain our services.

(UPDATE 19th July 2021)

Our Enforcement Strategy document sets out how we operate.

Enforcement site visits will only take place for the very highest priority cases where there is a risk to life or property and only where the council is satisfied that the risk to the public through the possible further transmission of COVID can be avoided.

For tree works, we will process casework where it is possible to do so without a physical visit. An example might be where a tree can be wholly seen from the public realm and is not close to a building (or adjacent land) necessitating visit to consider from that viewpoint. Where we issue a tree decision without a physical visit, the case assessment will fully explain why the specific circumstances justify this approach (UPDATE: 19th July 2021)

Should you have concerns over Coastal Works, Engineering and Tree Matters please contact the planning department, by e-mailing planning@wealden.gov.uk

Pre-application advice is a valuable tool in the Development Management process and the council is still able to offer the majority of these services. However, for the foreseeable future all discussion will only be via telephone or via video conferencing facilities. No site visits will be conducted as part of the pre-application service; however officers will be able to consider any photographs provided as well as formal pre-application information lodged.

Due to pressure on resources Listed Building On Site advice is currently unavailable, but we are aiming to resume these as soon as possible.

If you are wondering if you require planning permission for works or operations, please book one of our planning surgeries.

(UPDATE 19th July 2021)

The preferred method of submission is via the Planning Portal or by e-mail if this is not possible. Applications submitted by hard copy will likely experience significant delay in processing because of the ability process incoming post to our office.

Please note cheques for application fees can no longer be processed. Payment can be made on the Planning payments  webpage.

We encourage all representations made for planning applications electronically, either through the council’s online application register of applications, or by e-mail to planning@wealden.gov.uk.

This is the fastest and most efficient way to submit comments.

(UPDATE 19th July 2021)

The methods that the Council will use to publicise applications considered to be valid on or after 1st November 2020 include the following:

  • Publishing applications and associated documents on the Council’s website;
  • Displaying one or more (as relevant) site notices near the application site. The site notice will provide details of the planning application, information on how the plans can be viewed and how comments can be made and when comments must be submitted by;
  • Advertising certain applications in local newspapers in accordance with statutory requirements.

Please see our page how we notify on Planning Applications

During COVID the government introduced legislation allowing the use of websites and social media to publicise applications. In light of that, where a planning application has been submitted the public will need to register against the application number, by visiting www.planning.wealden.gov.uk. In addition to searching, viewing and commenting on planning applications, the system allows you to subscribe for email updates either when the status of the application changes or new documents are added to the website – please see the our pages on Keeping up to date with Planning Applications and How You Can Be Involved In The Planning Process.

Please note the Council will use these features to notify the public of changes or revisions to proposals. Registration is free although an active e-mail account is required.

Officers will need to consider whether amended plans require publicity and new amendments submitted in the current period of self-isolation may need publicity, and may therefore not be capable of being advanced to decision for the foreseeable future. 

Please liaise with your case officer or the relevant Area Team Leader by e-mailing planning@wealden.gov.uk.

Our twitter feed @WDC_Planning  provides news, updates and information from the Planning department, though please send all messages to planning@wealden.gov.uk.

(UPDATE 19th July 2021)

Officers of the planning service will not be conducting face-to-face meetings until further notice. Officers are contactable via email and can make outgoing phone calls and can use video conferencing facilities.

The government is clear that a well-functioning planning system is as important now as ever. Decisions and actions being taken now are vital to the District’s health, well-being and economic recovery. What we do in planning is vital to all of those objectives in the short and the long-term.

To ensure the Council is able to continue to make effective and transparent decisions and to assist with on going recovery from COVID the Council has a wide ranging Officer Scheme of Delegation. This can be see on full on our website.  (UPDATE 19th July 2021)

There is a backlog of cases awaiting committee decision. This relates to both area committees though is most pressing in the South of the District. We are working hard to clear this work though priority will be given to new housing and employment floor area generating applications. We recognise that any application is important, but residential and new employment cases will assist the Council’s land supply but also the economic recovery from COVID.

It is possible to still register to speak on planning applications that come to Committee, however our speaking rules have been amended during this pandemic.

For more information please visit our pages on Planning Committee South or Planning Committee North.
(UPDATE 19th July 2021)