COVID-19: Guidance relating to the Planning Process

In order to limit the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), we are following Government advice on physical distancing and all staff are working from home.

Effective from Wednesday 8 April 2020

Updated 26 January 2021

Whilst we are progressing as much application work as we can, our offices are closed, and staff are not able to carry out site visits or erect site notices.  This will impact on our overall productivity in addition to the need to, for example, home-school children.

In addition, staff are assisting with the delivery of the nationwide vaccine programme to ensure that our residents are protected from Covid-19 as soon as possible and therefore we are reducing the services offered along with our service standards to allow for this. 

The Development Management Service is a statutory function which we will continue to offer, but Officers are now being asked to work to strict priorities and many application decisions will therefore be delayed, some significantly so, and some may be put on hold until such time as they can be considered.  Furthermore, many of our internal consultees are also assisting with Covid-19 vaccinations, meaning that consultation responses are being delayed which further impacts on our ability to make decisions. 

We would ask that you are patient, understanding and courteous to our staff and refrain from making contact unless it is absolutely necessary. 

If you have an application under consideration then, where appropriate, we will be asking for a 3 month extension of target and we would urge you to agree this by return. If your application requires negotiation to make it acceptable, we will try to offer you the option to withdraw but if you decline, your application maybe recommended for refusal.

1. New Planning Applications 

We strongly advise that these are submitted via the Planning Portal https://www.mendip.gov.uk/planningforms or by email (Planning@mendip.gov.uk). The offices are closed and while post is still being checked and processed, there will inevitably be delays and hard copy Planning Applications may take a little longer to be received and processed in the current circumstances. 

2. Accepting Cheques for Planning Applications

We strongly recommend that you use the electronic payment system ie BACS - further information can be found by emailing Planning@mendip.gov.uk. If you have absolutely no other method of payment, other than a cheque, please email to discuss this before sending. Please note that applications cannot be processed until payment is received.

3. Suspension of Duty Officer service and Pre-Application process

We will be suspending our duty officer service and the Pre-Application advice service for all proposals other than economic development and will review this decision on a monthly basis.

4. Site visits

Officers are currently unable to carry out site visits due to the current restrictions.  For current applications you may be asked to provide photographs to allow a decision to be made.  If a site visit is necessary, an extension of target will be requested and the application put on hold until a visit can be carried out.

5. Publishing Applications received

a) Site Notices - For some applications it is a legal requirement that a site notice is issued. If the Applicant is based at the site, we will post the site notice to the Applicant for them to fix in a prominent position and take photographs as evidence. If the site notice cannot be posted, an extension of time will be requested. Officers cannot attend sites and post notices due to the current restrictions.

b) Press Notices - These will continue as normal

c) Neighbour Consultations - These will continue to be posted out as normal

d) Parish Council Consultations - Planning Officers will be as flexible as possible to meet any requested extensions to allow Parish Councils to provide comments 

6. Viewing and Making Comments on Applications

All current, and many historic, applications can be viewed via our website: https://www.mendip.gov.uk/article/6358/View-and-Comment-on-Planning-Applications.  If you have any comments on a current application you are strongly advised to submit these via the website link above.  Please note that, as the offices are closed, we cannot guarantee that hard copy comments will be received.

Please note we are currently experiencing a very high number of letters from members of the public in relation to applications currently under consideration.  Whilst we always aim to ensure that these are uploaded to the Council's website within 5 days of receipt, due to the high numbers, there are times when we are slipping behind - we will get them uploaded, they may just take a little longer.  Therefore, if you are worried that a letter has not been uploaded, please do not contact us for at least 5 days from the date of submission.

7. Prior Approvals

We will follow the guidance in the Chief Planners letter which states:

'We recognise that there may be circumstances where a local planning authority is unable to consider a permitted development prior approval application within the deemed consent period. It remains important to prioritise these so important economic activity can continue. In these exceptional circumstances the authority can, if necessary, seek to agree an extended approval date with the applicant. Where agreement cannot be reached an authority may need to consider whether prior approval is refused if the application cannot be considered with the requisite attention.' 

8. Permitted Development

Rights of pubs/restaurants who are now able to operate as takeaways along with relaxed restrictions on food deliveries to shops.  We are aware of these issues and confirm that we will not investigate enforcement complaints in this regard. 

9. Planning Enforcement 

As we will not be undertaking site visits except in the case of very serious breaches, please bear this in mind when reporting any concerns.