The government is keen to get the house building and construction industry back up and running following COVID-19 and so the planning system will play a very important part in the economic recovery. Since this crisis began, we have been doing everything we can to keep everything running, including policy making and determining planning applications. The Government has also introduced temporary relaxation of some procedures and planning requirements during this crisis and so we have also been supporting businesses with these. Examples include enabling some businesses to run takeaways without further permission from the council; overnight deliveries for food and essential products; and altering the way we carry out statutory publicity requirements.

Throughout this period, we have adapted the way we have been working in order to support this sector and to keep things moving. The housebuilding industry relies upon expedient and timely decision making to provide a healthy supply of consented sites for housing development.  The approach we have taken during this crisis has worked and so we are now focusing on how we can further support the planning application process so that it is not seen as a barrier to good quality development.

We are expecting a shortfall in the council's five year housing land supply and so we have prepared an interim policy statement for housing development to enable us to effectively manage planning applications for housing, in the period before the emerging Local Plan can be adopted. The Planning Committee approved this on 3 June. We are also prioritising progress on the delivery of known sites, such as Tangmere and the Southern Gateway project; as well as inviting developers to intensify and speed up development where appropriate.

We have created a list of proposed actions that will support house building. These include more flexibility over the timing of Community Infrastructure Levy payments; working with developers to see how we can support them further; reviewing our planning policy approach, for example to town centre uses ; and considering fast track planning services - to name just a few of the actions we have identified. The key point to be made is that we are doing everything we can to support the local economy.

We're also continuing to push forward with the Local Plan Review. Included within this will be a focus on healthy communities and how we protect the environment moving forward. People might not realise this, but the Local Plan is much more than where future development will be placed. It covers how we move around the district; how we can achieve higher environmental standards; how we can encourage healthy lifestyles; and how we can protect the environment and wildlife - as well as deciding where development should be placed. The Local Plan will include a health and wellbeing policy; it will promote cycling and walking routes in new developments; it will provide open space and recreation areas in development; and it will include policies to address climate change. These are just a few examples.

Another key area within this particular recovery plan focuses on health and environmental protection. Since this crisis started, our teams have been working incredibly hard to support both local businesses and residents. From providing advice on adapting food businesses to offer takeaways, enforcing business closure regulations; addressing complaints on social distancing; through to dealing with complaints regarding noise and bonfires - our health protection and environmental protection teams have played a key role in this crisis. Their focus now is on providing advice and guidance to businesses as they reopen and on the track and trace programme. This involves working with West Sussex County Council as part of a local outbreak control team to trace and contain local outbreaks. This is really important, and will hopefully help us to keep the virus under control moving forward.

What is vital is that we do everything we can to continue to keep our area safe. To achieve this, we need everyone to play their part by following the government's advice, including regular hand washing; observing social distancing; and wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth in enclosed spaces. By working together, we will get through this very challenging period.

Best wishes,

 

Cllr Susan Taylor

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning at Chichester District Council

Date: 11 August 2020