Shropshire Council

Planning services and Coronavirus

24 March 2020 Last updated at 06:37
We're closely following government and Public Health England guidance about Covid-19. In response to this, we ask that you use our online services where you can: email planning.northern@shropshire.gov.uk, or planning.southern@shropshire.gov.uk , or call 0345 678 9000. We ask during this period that you do not send any correspondence via post or hand delivery to any offices, as we won't be able to process them.

We'll continue to deliver statutory planning services using agile working solutions. 

Agile working, paperless communication and risk management

Staff are now working from home and are equipped to deal with most processes electronically. They can be contacted by phone or email in the usual way and can hold meetings through Skype and Microsoft Teams where these are necessary, as we see this as an important service in support of our communities and businesses. In this time of unprecedented change we're focusing on safety and in maintaining business continuity.

I've asked my teams to risk-assess their work and they will observe government advice in undertaking their roles. Planning officers will continue to visit sites where this is essential, and will follow the latest guidance in terms of protecting themselves, and the public, against Covid 19. However, all planned face to face meetings are cancelled until further notice. I would ask our customers to please respect this and support us by using electronic communication wherever possible with all correspondence.

Key points:

  • Officers working remotely
  • Face to face meetings cancelled
  • Electronic communication by default
  • Respect social distancing and risk management
  • Where site notices need to be displayed in respect of planning applications we'll ask that the applicants undertake this and provide photographic proof

Planning consultations

With regard to ongoing consultation on current planning applications, this is being reviewed. However, as a council, we need to be mindful of the risks of not determining applications within the government's prescribed time periods.  

All information connected with a planning application is available online, and it is for all stakeholders and interested parties to determine their own arrangements and respond in a timely way. Any person who has an interest in any application is able to respond, and all responses will be picked up by the team without delay and logged against the application. Please communicate in all respects electronically to minimise risks and reduce delays.

Whilst many town and parish councils do engage with the community and seek their views, such engagement isn't necessary to enable consultation responses to be provided, and individual members of the public should continue to respond individually to enable their views to be heard. 

Therefore, for the vast majority of applications, we don't see the need to extend the period of time to respond. However, there will be applications where exceptions need to be made, such as in respect of major and/or complex applications. In such circumstances please liaise with the appointed case officer and, where possible, we'll look to accommodate those requests.

Key points:

Planning committee meetings

Further to government advice regarding gatherings, we've taken the decision to cancel planning committee meetings until further notice. This will be kept under review in line with evolving government advice and guidance. There is, however, a requirement to continue making decisions on the applications that are scheduled to be determined by planning committee, and we're considering emergency measures to ensure we have a robust process in place guided by government advice. When this is finalised we'll publish full details of the process on our website and through other communication channels. 

Customer feedback and planning enforcement

The Planning Services teams will prioritise areas where there's the greatest risk. For this reason, although we'll aim to respond to enquiries as soon as we can, cases may need to be delayed. Those processing planning applications or planning enforcement queries may not be able to complete this to the usual timescales.

Key points:

  • Planning and enforcement casework prioritised having regard to risk and harm
  • Some timescales may not be met – we'll seek agreement of customers in this regard

These decisions are of course subject to change. Our approach will be under constant review, and we'll always take account of the latest government advice and issue updated news pages here accordingly.

Thank you for your assistance.

Ian Kilby
Head of Planning Services 24/03/2020