Bedford Borough Council aims to continue operating the planning service in line with the requirements outlined in MHCLG's letter to Chief Planners to Chief Planners on 23 March 2020.
However, there will be a reduction in the level of service we provide due to a change in staff and resources.
Our planning staff are working from home and most can be contacted during normal working hours. If you need to make contact please do so by email to allow them to work flexibly around family / caring commitments if needed.
We are keeping staffing levels and workloads under constant review in light of any cases of self-isolation and childcare needs.
Most applications can be registered remotely, so please help us by making electronic submissions through the Planning Portal. Paper submissions cannot be processed at this time as there are no staff in the office to undertake scanning functions.
This means that any paper submissions will be held in abeyance until normal office functions can resume. We will also not be able to send hard copy plans to town and parish councils in addition to electronic consultations.
Comments on planning applications
We are continuing to consult on planning applications and will consider any comments made. We are aware that Government restrictions may prevent some people seeing site notices but Government advice is to continue with the procedure at the present time.
Our officers are still putting up site notices and are able to view sites from public areas where no interaction with other people is required. However, where a site requires viewing from within private areas, case officers will make a judgement as to whether a site visit can be made in a safe way.
If this is not possible, applicants and/or third parties may be asked to provide photographs by email. If the information cannot be provided, then the applicant may be informed that there is likely to be a delay in determining their application.
In accordance with the latest advice on social distancing, we are unable to have face-to-face meetings. Your case officer will contact you to discuss alternative arrangements where necessary which could be via phone call or video conferencing.
Planning enforcement investigations will continue, but with the same site visit restrictions and potential delays as for planning applications.
To avoid delays those reporting breaches of planning control, and those responsible for land under investigation, are encouraged to send photographs or other evidence that might enable the investigation to continue without a site visit. These can be sent directly to the investigating officer or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Photographs which show the context of the surroundings are often the most useful.
With regard to signing-off archaeological fieldwork, it may be possible to undertake some on-site monitoring where we are able to comply with the government’s guidance on social distancing, but please contact the relevant case officer in advance to discuss.
Applicants should, however, be aware that where this is not possible and alternative arrangements cannot be agreed, there may be a delay in signing-off fieldwork.
Planning Committees have been suspended for the time being and this may affect decision-making timeframes. At the March 2020 Planning Committee members resolved to delegate committee applications to planning officers unless the Conservative, Liberal or Labour Party Group Leaders, or Chair of Planning Committee or the Chief Executive resolves that the application should be held in abeyance until the next sitting of the planning committee.
Case officers will be in touch with applicants/agents to advise if their application is caught by this abeyance process as soon as they become aware of this situation.
These arrangements will be kept under review.
Thank you for your co-operation during these challenging times.