The Planning system has been relaxed – The implications PART 1

This two-part blog outlines how the planning system has been temporarily relaxed in response to COVID-19, how the property market might respond to the implications of the pandemic and if more permanent changes to the planning system could help.

In March, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 came into force allowing a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a restaurant or a drinking establishment (Use Class A3 & A4 respectively) to a hot food takeaway (Use Class A5). The legislation allows the change of use to occur at any time during the period 24 March 2020 – 23rd March 2021. Notice must be served to the Local Planning Authority, but this can be done retrospectively. Previously, a full planning application would have been required.

More recently, the draft Business and Planning Bill (the ‘Bill’) was introduced to the House of Commons on Thursday 25th June 2020. Should the Bill achieve Royal Accent (which is very likely), it will provide an automatic extension until 1st April 2021 to planning permissions which have already received the grant of permission and would lapse between 23rd March 2020 – 31st December 2020.

The Bill provides an immediate positive boost to the property market, preventing the loss of permissions for development that may have lapsed due to COVID-19 delays. This alongside other measures in the Bill including:

  • a simplified licensing process for outdoor seating for pubs, restaurants and cafés;
  • allowing pubs and restaurants to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas via existing seating licences and
  • removing the need for planning permission for outdoor markets and fairs

are all part of the Government’s comprehensive plan to revive high streets, support the hospitality industry and get people back to work.

In combination with other COVID-19 actions such as pedestrianising streets, could we see an increase in al fresco dining and the reclamation of the High Street from the private car? We certainly hope so…

But how will COVID-19 impact demand for property in each of the major sectors and should temporary changes become more permanent?

Paul Smith, managing director at the Strategic Land Group writing in ‘Housing Today’, remarks that short-term fixes to a crisis have a habit of sticking around.


Bill Grimsey, former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland, suggests in the Build Back Better: Covid-19 Supplement for Town Centres that the use class system should be deregulated and local authorities given the opportunity to develop an ‘appropriate proposition’ to attract people to live, work and play in towns.

Check out Part 2 of this Blog for our views.