Business and Planning Bill – what you need to know

01 July 2020, Tamara Sandoul, Policy and Campaigns Manager, CIEH

Official document with 'APPROVED' stamp

Late last week, the Government published its Business and Planning Bill alongside two sets of draft guidance documents.

This blog picks out key proposals and how these might affect environmental health teams. However, we are keen to have comments from our members on these proposals, especially those working for local authorities, so if there is anything that we may have missed, please get in touch with us.

This Bill is racing through parliament at the moment, having completed the entire journey through the House of Commons on Monday, and it is expected to do the same in the House of Lords.

Restaurants, pubs and cafes pavement licences

Part 1 of the Bill makes provisions to speed up the process by which food establishments can apply for permission to use the pavement space outside their premises. This is described as a temporary measure to support businesses while social distancing measures may still be in place.

  • Businesses will be able to apply for a pavement licence to the local authority for a fee of no more than £100
  • The consultation period is five working days, excluding bank holidays, followed by another five day determination period (excluding public holidays). If the local authority does not determine the application before the end of the determination period, the licence is deemed to have been granted
  • Licences will be granted for a minimum of three months, however, the expectation is that most licences will be granted for 12 months or more, but not beyond 30 September 2021
  • Businesses with licences can then place the proposed furniture such as tables and chairs within the area set out in the application for the purpose or purposes proposed
  • Licences can only be granted in respect of highways listed in section 115A(1) Highways Act 1980
  • Although Part 1 of the Bill extends to England and Wales, the guidance document describes the process for England only, including London and other areas where statutory regimes other than the regime in the Highways Act 1980 may be relevant to the grant of licences for street furniture

Local authorities are encouraged to publish the local conditions subject to which they propose to grant pavement licences. They are encouraged to consider public health and safety, whether a nuisance could be created and accessibility, including road obstruction, social distancing and the volume of traffic from pedestrians and bicycles.

The draft guidance published alongside the Bill, provides more detail.

Extension of construction working hours

Part 3 of the Bill relates to the extension of construction hours. The guidance suggests that ‘the aim of the new temporary fast track deemed consent route under section 74B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is to enable urgent changes to construction working hours to support safe construction working in line with the government’s latest social distancing guidance’. Part 3 of the Bill extends to England and Wales.

  • Current typical working hours are 8.00 - 18.00 on Monday to Friday and 8.00 - 13.00 on Saturday. The new extended times could be 8.00 - 21.00 on Monday to Saturday
  • Developers will apply to local planning authorities to vary existing conditions, or the details submitted under a condition, that limit construction site working hours
  • Local authorities have 14 calendar days (except bank holidays) to consider such applications. If the local planning authority does not determine the application within this time, the revised working hours are deemed to have been consented to and construction can take place in accordance with these new hours
  • If an application is approved, this will temporarily amend planning restrictions on construction working hours
  • The provisions will be in place so that any extended working hours can remain up until 1 April 2021. After 1 April 2021, the original conditions over construction hours will resume. However, an earlier date can be requested by the applicant or decided upon by the local planning authority, with the agreement of the applicant
  • There is no application fee for submitting these applications

Local authorities will be able to refuse some applications and there are several considerations. One of these is the proximity of sites to businesses or community uses which are particularly sensitive to noise, dust and vibration, such as hospitals, hospices, care homes, places of worship, broadcasting or recording studios, theatres and cinemas. Moreover, sites located close to residential areas, where the request for changing hours is likely to have a significant impact on health and the impact of noise, will need to be scrutinised closely.

The draft guidance published alongside the Bill, provides more detail.

The bottom line

From early discussions with our members, we anticipate that the key issues will be the availability of resources to undertake good noise and other risk assessments at record speed, especially as there are caps to the application fees and strict time restrictions with tacit approval if these are lapsed.

Subsequent noise complaints from residents who are still shielding, looking after children at home and working from home will need to be investigated by environmental health teams and acted upon where there is a nuisance.

The changes extend for over a year, and it is fair to say that businesses and customers will have got used to new outdoor seating areas and this could become the new normal. These changes could bring benefits or drawbacks in the long term, but it is possible that these temporary changes will lead to a permanent shift.

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