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The Planning Service during the Coronavirus crisis

Bedford Borough Council aims to continue operating the planning service in line with the requirements outlined in MHCLG's letter 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.

Contacting Planning

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.

Electronic submissions

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

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 planning@bedford.gov.uk. Photographs which show the context of the surroundings are often the most useful.

Archaeological fieldwork

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.

Temporary extension of construction hours on development sites

The government’s guidance on modification of planning conditions relating to construction working hours (updated 22 July 2020) and ministerial statement from 13 May 2020 provided a temporary fast-track deemed consent route, under section 74B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, enabling urgent changes to construction working hours to support safe construction working in line with the government’s latest social distancing guidance on construction and other outdoor work. The guidance was in force until 1 April 2021.

The government has published updated coronavirus construction guidance (25 March 2021) and a new ministerial statement from 25 March 2021, enabling the extension to remain in place until 30 September 2021.

Local authorities have 14 calendar days to consider applications for an extension to construction working hours and will endeavour to respond within 10 days. If an application is approved, this will temporarily amend planning restrictions on construction working hours until 30 September 2021, unless either another earlier date has been requested by the applicant or is decided upon by the local planning authority, with the agreement of the applicant.

If the local planning authority does not determine the application within 14 days (excluding public holidays), the revised working hours are deemed to have been consented to and construction can take place in accordance with these new hours.

Note that applications can only be made online.

Please email information to planning@bedford.gov.uk and write ‘changes to site operating hours’ and the original Planning Decision reference number as the subject for the email.

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