Planning

Planning FAQs

COVID 19 and the SSDC Planning Function

This page will try and answer some of the frequently asked questions asked about the planning function during this time, and set out some of the necessary changes we are making to processes. Further updates and briefings will appear here over the coming weeks

  1. Town/Parish Council Briefing – COVID 19 and the SSDC Planning Function – 26 March

    We have been carefully considering how, during these uncertain times, we need to adapt and change some our services and ways of working so that we can, as much as possible, continue to deliver for our communities. The provision of government advice to protect the public will undoubtedly mean you, as Parish Councils, are having to make changes to the way you conduct your business, including considering whether you can continue to publically meet to discuss the planning applications we consult you on.

     The Government have been very clear with us that they wish Planning Authorities to continue to support the economy and ensure there are permissions ready to be implemented once we reach the economic recovery stage in this dreadful pandemic.  

    Yesterday, the Chief Planner has written to all Planning Authorities to advise that we should be taking an innovative approach, using all options available to us to continue our service, including exploring every opportunity to use technology to ensure that discussions and consultations can go ahead.

    As such given these unusual circumstances we are writing to let you know we will be enacting several immediate changes.

    We will now only be consulting by e-mail on planning matters. Within the

    e-mail we will: -

    • Set out the application description
    • Site Address
    • Reference number

    We have designed a new template containing this information which we will now be using, and this will also give you a specific date by which we would like any comments from you.

    Our website will contain all of the documents submitted relating to the application, you will need to allow 24 hours from your e-mail notification for them to be fully uploaded.

    This is a crucial step in enabling all Planning Staff to work from home, reducing the chance of spreading infection.

    Switching to e-mail consultation will also assist the Council’s green ambition to reduce the amount of printing we do each day. By not printing the information for Parishes we will reduce the numbers of documents print per month by nearly a thousand.

    We appreciate this is a more challenging time for parishes, and this may cause you to require an extension of time, we have had clear guidance from central Government that we need to keep the Planning service as business as usual. This means we are not in a position to grant extensions of time. If you need any assistance in accessing the documents online or navigating the Planning Portal please send an e-mail to planning@southsomerset.gov.uk

    To ensure we prioritise your responses to consultation we have set up a new e-mail address this is parishconsultee@southsomerset.gov.uk

    . When responding to consultation please do not copy any other SSDC e-mail addresses in, we will be unable to answer any questions within representations.

    If you are unable to meet the deadline your comments may not be considered, and we will not chase responses after 21 days.

    When you e-mail your comments could you kindly state whether they are ‘properly resolved decision in line with the Parish Council’s constitution’ or ‘comments provided, compiled and forwarded from Councillors and therefore do not constitute a binding decision of the council’. This is important for us to know in administering our scheme of delegation.

    Obviously, given the current advice from Government on working from home wherever possible, officers are doing just that and therefore we are considering alternative ways to undertake site visits, using technology as much as possible (things like photos, live streaming, video conferences etc). We are also working to establish a suitable method of holding Planning Committees. This may involve an area committee meeting virtually as a consultative committee with comments forwarded to the Chief Executive whom now has full delegated powers following a Full Council resolution last week. We are expecting further guidance from Government on the matter of Planning Committees and so we will update you once a formal way forward has been established.

    New style neighbour letters and site notices will be issued soon. This directs members of the public online to view and comment on applications. Please do all you can to encourage your communities to use this method to aid the planning process at this time.

    Can we also remind parishes that if any enforcement breaches are to be reported that they are made via the appropriate form and in line with instructions available on our website.

    Government advice is being released daily to help all sectors in this emergency. A Written Ministerial Statement has asked all Local Authorities to take a “positive approach to their engagement with food retailers and distributors”…… “to ensure planning controls are not a barrier to food delivery over the period of disruption caused by the coronavirus”. In effect this means Councils should under-enforce planning conditions relating to any hours of operation for deliveries imposed on supermarkets and relevant warehouses.

    Government has announced that all food premises are now able to offer a takeaway service, read more

     The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has published new guidance on how it will continue to carry out its duties.  While some site visits, hearings, inquiries and events will have to be cancelled or postponed, PINS is considering alternative arrangements where possible. PINS will keep its guidance under review, which could change at short notice to reflect the Government’s wider advice.

    We recognise parishes will now have to adapt and agree ways in which to conduct all aspects of its business, as we are. Therefore, I thank you for your understanding at this difficult and unique time and hope we can all work together to continue to support appropriate development across South Somerset

    Stay safe.

    Simon Fox, Lead Specialist (Planning) & Kirsty Larkins, Case Services Manager

  2. Agent/Applicant Briefing – COVID 19 and the SSDC Planning Function – 26 March

    We are sure you are acutely aware of the rapidly changing world we currently find ourselves in. We are having to review and change the way we do things. Government have advised that Planning should, as far as possible be business as usual to support businesses and the construction industry.

    Yesterday, the Chief Planner has written to all Planning Authorities to advise that we should be taking an innovative approach, using all options available to us to continue our service, including exploring every opportunity to use technology wherever possible to aid the continuation of the system.

    As such, and in support of the Government advice regarding home working wherever possible, we propose to switch to only accept applications via the Planning Portal. Over the coming weeks we will look to switch off processing our paper applications.

    Currently 75% of our applications are submitted via the portal, and we know many of you currently use this method.

    There are many advantages to using the portal but one of the key ones is the payment redirection facility. This means you can submit the application then nominate your client, finance department or other to pay. The nominate person then receives an e-mail to advise them how to pay online, over the phone, by BACS and even cheque. This reduces the amount of time you need to spend chasing clients. It also reduces the time our team spending matching payments and will enable us to improve validation times.

    If you need additional support submitting applications in this way, please e-mail us at  planning@southsomerset.gov.uk  and we will ask the Planning Portal to contact you.

    We are passionate about maintaining and improving our service but this will mean changes, and our ability to negotiate to the degree you have become accustomed is no longer viable.

    Obviously, given the current advice from Government on working from home wherever possible, officers are doing just that and therefore we are considering alternative ways to undertake site visits, using technology as much as possible (things like photos, live streaming, video conferences etc). We are also working to establish a suitable method of holding Planning Committees. This may involve an area committee meeting virtually as a consultative committee with comments forwarded to the Chief Executive whom now has full delegated powers following a Full Council resolution last week. We are expecting further guidance from Government on the matter of Planning Committees and so we will update you once a formal way forward has been established.

    For the time being please refer to this page for updates rather than ask officers for confirmation of committee dates for your applications. The situation is changing so rapidly, and at this time we are not aware when the new committee process will be in place. We ask you therefore to keep a close eye on our website, and we will update you with information as it becomes available. 

    You will also note we have briefed Town and Parish Council’s and included within that briefing are changes we are making to way in which we consult them and the style of the letters we send neighbours to direct them to our online functions.

    In other related news - A Written Ministerial Statement has asked all Local Authorities to take a “positive approach to their engagement with food retailers and distributors”…… “to ensure planning controls are not a barrier to food delivery over the period of disruption caused by the coronavirus”. In effect this means Councils should under-enforce planning conditions relating to any hours of operation for deliveries imposed on supermarkets and relevant warehouses.

    Government has announced that all food premises are now able to offer a takeaway service, read more

    The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has published guidance on how it will continue to carry out its duties under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the Planning Act 2008. While some site visits, hearings, inquiries and events will have to be cancelled or postponed, PINS is considering alternative arrangements where possible. PINS will keep its guidance under review, which could change at short notice to reflect the Government’s wider advice.

    Our officers continue to work incredibly hard to assess and determine applications. Your patience at this time would be appreciated as increased email traffic can have the counter effect of it intentions.

    We recognise you will also have to change and adapt the way in which you work. Therefore I thank you for your understanding at this difficult and unique time and hope we can all work together to continue to support appropriate development across South Somerset

    Stay safe.

    Simon Fox, Lead Specialist (Planning) & Kirsty Larkins, Case Services Manager

  3. Microfiche Enquiries

    Unfortunately due to the Covid 19 pandemic, we are currently unable to access any documents that may be archived on our Microfiche files and therefore cannot process these requests.

    If you enquiry is relating to a historic application please email planning@southsomerset.gov.uk as we may be able to check if the file is stored digitally.

    We apologies for any inconvenience caused. 

    PLEASE BE AWARE THAT WE NOW CHARGE FOR SOLICITOR AND MICROFICHE ENQUIRIES. Please email planning@southsomerset.gov.uk for details. 

  4. NEW CONSULTATION: Validation Guide – 28 April

    SSDC’s Planning Team are launching a consultation on a new Validation Guide. A Validation Guide sets out the type of documents and plans that the Council requires to register an application. Significant costs and delays will be reduced by ensuring the necessary documents are submitted at the outset.

    The Guide can be viewed here.

    It is intended that the Validation Guide comes into force during June 2020, it is currently being reviewed post consultation.

  5. NEW CONSULTATION: Enforcement Protocol – 28 April

    SSDC’s Planning Team are launching a consultation on a new Enforcement Protocol. An Enforcement Protocol sets out how the Council will approach the enforcement of breaches of planning control, setting out the principles and standards of service which can be expected by the public. Enforcement is a discretionary power and action is only used when negotiations have failed to resolve the breach, or, the breach is so serious as to warrant immediate action in the public interest to protect the amenity of the environment or safety of the public.

    The Protocol can be viewed here.

    It is intended that the Enforcement Protocol comes into force during June 2020, it is currently being reviewed post consultation.

  6. TOWN/PARISH COUNCIL FEEDBACK – 28 April

    A month has passed since the decision was taken to discontinue sending paper copies of planning applications to Town/Parish Councils and to email a consultation instead referring to online application documentation. We would welcome feedback on how parishes have adapted to this new approach and what if anything could be done to ensure this arrangement could continue to operate longer term, please email planning@southsomerset.gov.uk with the subject bar text ‘Digital Consultation Feedback’.

    Tales of Good Practice that can be shared with others would also be welcome.

  7. VIRTUAL MEETINGS AND APPLICATION PUBLICITY – 28 April

    The Council has now operated one round of consultative Area Committee meetings and one Regulation Committee where planning items have been discussed.  The recommendations from the respective committee are passed to the Chief Executive under powers bestowed at Full Council on 19th March.

    At some point, which has not been announced yet it is intended that formal decision making meetings take place, keep an eye on our Minutes and Agendas Page

    As such it is worth reminding parishes and agents/applicants that effectively normal decision-making is taking place and planning officers do not have any greater power to decide applications.

    Application publicity is changing to reflect the current COVID situation, but will remain well within legal obligations. Neighbouring properties to development proposals will still receive letters through the post. The substantive change to our processes is that site notices will now only be displayed at development proposals where there is a statutory obligation to do so or where the officer uses their discretion. Furthermore in most circumstances site notices will be sent in the post to the applicant/agent to display the notice. This avoids unnecessary travel on behalf of Council staff.

     

Thank you. You response is appreciated.

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