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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.

Planning Committee

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 resolve that the application should be determined by committee.

Virtual Planning Committees are to be held as per the existing committee timetable but only for called-in applications. Applicants and Agents will be notified if their application has been called-in through the aforementioned process.

Requests for temporary extension of construction hours on development sites

On 25 June 2020, the government issued draft guidance on construction site hours and deemed consent.

Local planning authorities are expected to approve requests to extend construction working hours to ensure safe working in line with social distancing guidelines until 9pm, Monday to Saturday, unless there are very compelling reasons against this. This is a temporary measure until 1 April 2021

Bedford Borough Council will consider such requests when made, but applicants will need to provide details of:

  • the planning permission to which the application relates
  • the existing agreed construction working hours
  • details to identify the condition or approved document such as construction management plan which details the working hours
  • the proposed revised construction working hours
  • the date the revised construction working hours should take effect (which must not be earlier than the end of the period of 14 days beginning with the day after that on which the application is sent to the local planning authority)
  • the date on which the application is sent
  • the date on which the revised construction working hours should cease to have effect (no later than 1 April 2021)

To aid swift decision making, applicants should also provide:

  • a short justification on why extended hours are necessary to enable safe working practices on site
  • details of their mitigation plan as set out below.

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.

The email will be passed to the relevant planning officer, who will consult immediately with the Environmental Health and Planning Enforcement departments to determine if the request can be agreed.

We aim to determine the request within 14 calendar days and applicants will be notified in writing.

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