COVID-19: Planning and building

We're trying hard to keep the planning service operating effectively in the face of unprecedented challenges. We're continuing to respond and bring forward different ways of working as quickly as possible.

If you've recently submitted a planning application, you'll receive an acknowledgement letter within 10 working days of the application being logged on our system. If you have not received a letter email: planning.enquiries@york.gov.uk.

See further planning and building information:

To talk about an existing application contact your planning officer directly by email.

See further details about changes to our planning services during coronavirus:


New applications

For the time being we have no access to our office. As a result we're unable to deal with paper applications, so we ask that everything is submitted electronically.

The best way to submit new applications electronically is via the Planning Portal. Electronic applications are easy to review and validate. even with planning staff home working.

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Contacting planning officers

There's no planning officer presence in our offices. Most officers are enabled for home working and are therefore contactable from home by emailing them directly or by emailing: planning.enquries@york.gov.uk.

Many officers are balancing work with caring responsibilities and therefore may not be working normal office hours at this time.

We're not providing any face-to-face meetings at this time, due to social distancing guidelines and the vast majority of officers do not have telephone access.

If matters can't be resolved by email or Skype meeting it may be necessary to agree an extension of time to an application.

Our normal practice remains whereby officers can't enter into email correspondence with third parties.

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Virtual meetings

All face-to-face meetings are cancelled. However most officers can arrange meetings virtually by Skype.

We're looking at how meetings can be arranged with external parties.

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Determining planning applications and site visits

We're still able to determine most planning applications.

We'll only do site visits sites where it's essential to do so, and following a risk assessment.

Officers will not meet with applicants or agents and will not enter buildings.

Officers will contact applicants or their agent when a site visit is required and will set out the procedures to be followed.

We may be able to determine some applications without a site visit, in limited cases, but in the event that a site visit is necessary to fully assess the proposals, we'll work with the applicant to agree a suitable extension of time for the application and to explore other means whereby we can gain an understanding of the site and the proposal.

We'll write to applicants or their agents in circumstances where we need to enter a building (for example, with Listed Building Consent applications) and explain that it will not be possible to determine their application at the present time, and offer an extension of time to their application.

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Application processing time frames

We'll endeavour to keep applications running to time. However it's likely that there will be some delays as we are working under very different and difficult circumstances.

The assessment of a planning application can require input from technical consultees from elsewhere within the council, as well as external bodies who will also be working differently to normal.

Please bear with us while we introduce new processes for validating and determining applications, as we're working remotely with limited travel.

Furthermore, despite our best efforts to keep our staff safe and working at home, there is a risk that we might experience increased levels of sickness. Therefore, we'll be asking applicants and agents for extensions of time on applications where necessary.

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Appeals based on time frames

In an environment where applications may not be determined within agreed or statutory time periods, we must be mindful of deadlines for making non-determination appeals to the Planning Inspectorate.

If an extension of time is not agreed for whatever reason, and the deadline to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate (which remain unchanged despite the lockdown) is about to expire, developers could appeal for non-determination in order to keep their application live.

In order to limit the spread of coronavirus the Planning Inspectorate are following government advice on social distancing and avoiding non-essential travel. They have therefore postponed all casework events in the near future including site visits, hearings and inquiries, meaning an appeal for non-determination could be delayed indefinitely with the Planning Inspectorate.

It is hoped that developers will be proactive and agree extensions of time in writing with the council.

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Commenting on a planning application

If you have no access to email or the internet, the best way to send us your comments is to ask a relative or friend to email us your comments to planning.comments@york.gov.uk, or to submit comments on Public Access.

Planning officers take comments into account, as long as they are material planning considerations, regardless of the sender.

Whilst comments by post can still be submitted, there's likely to be a delay with the planning service dealing with these comments due to limited access to our office. There's therefore a risk that last minute comments by post might not be taken into account.

If you can't submit comments online or by email, then please call telephone: 01904 552533, leave a short message with your contact telephone number and the planning application reference number, and we will call you back.

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We continue to advertise planning applications in the normal manner.

Adjoining neighbouring properties to an application site will receive a notification letter from us advising them of the application and how the details can be viewed, and inviting any comments.

Where there is a requirement for a site notice to be posted, these are being posted by an Officer who is observing social distancing measures with each visit risk assessed prior to being undertaken.

Where required, Public Notices are still being published in the York Press.

Planning applications are also available to view online via Public Access.

Owing to changes that we've had to make to how we print and mail our neighbour notification letters, and possible delays in the postal network, we've temporarily extended our standard consultation periods from 21 days to 28 days so as not to unduly disadvantage any parties that wish to participate in the planning process. Internal systems have been adjusted to accommodate this change. These changes exceed the minimum legal requirement of legislation. An insert letter also accompanies each neighbour notification letter to advise notified parties of service changes during the coronavirus outbreak.

Public Access also has tools to allow users to perform searches by address, ward area and date ranges. A list of the applications that have been validated each week can also be generated.

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Planning committees

We've had to suspend our upcoming planning committees to adhere to government guidance on avoiding public meetings during the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has recently introduced regulations to allow committee meetings to be held without the physical attendance of all parties. The detail of the regulations has been reviewed and officers are exploring ways that this can be enabled through the use of the Zoom video-conferencing platform.

There are many issues to consider in this respect, including:

  • the technology to be used
  • the required capacity (attendance)
  • ensuring the meeting adheres to the legal requirements
  • availability of staff to run meetings during this time of crisis

However, this is being looked at as a matter of urgency.

We're keen to prevent delays in making planning decisions which would otherwise be made by committee and want to avoid the risk of successful legal challenge by ensuring proper procedures and protocols are in place before going live.

We're working towards holding the first remote planning committee on 21 May 2020 for a single item. Once we've established that the committee can successfully be held remotely, we will be able to roll out other planning committee meetings for the consideration of urgent matters only.

In terms of planning proposals that would have otherwise been considered at planning committee, we are currently working under an emergency scheme of delegation for urgent decision making. Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis and the risk of an appeal for non-determination will need to be taken into account. Applicants will be informed of this process and their views will be considered.

The planning call-in procedure has not been changed by the urgent decision making scheme of delegation in place during lockdown and the call-in procedure remains intact and as it was prior to lockdown.

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Prior notification requests

The government has recognised that there may be circumstances where a local planning authority is unable to consider permitted development prior approvals within the deemed consent period.

We'll continue to prioritise these requests, but there may be exceptional circumstances which require us to discuss an extended approval date with the applicant.

The government has indicated that ‘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’.

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Lapsed planning permission

Most applications have a condition which sets out a time period within which a permission must be implemented. There is generally no requirement controlling when the development must be completed so once you have started work the permission will not lapse.

If you're unable to start work and need to submit a new planning application, the existence of an extant planning permission means that this will be a material consideration when assessing your new application, which may make the process of obtaining a new approval simpler.

If you intend to commence development within the original time limit, please make sure that any pre-commencement conditions on the permission have been discharged. It will be a matter for government in light of the current coronavirus situation whether any changes will be made to national legislation and regulations proposing changes to commencement time periods generally.

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Pre-application advice

The pre-application advice service was initially withdrawn owing to issues with the collection of fees associated to this type of application and how these applications are submitted to us.

However, these initial issues have now been resolved and as from Monday 27 April 2020 the service has been restored.

At this time, we can only receive these submissions via email. Applicants will then be advised that application fees can only be paid via BACS, owing to the current access restrictions at our offices.

Officers will be able to provide written responses and where further discussions are required these could be held via Skype meeting. No face-to-face meetings or site visits will take place.

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Copies of information and documents

Our offices are currently closed and therefore we have very limited capacity for printing.

Requests for hard copies of documents will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If copies are required, please call telephone: 01904 552533, leave a short message with your contact telephone number and the planning application reference number, and we'll call you back.

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Planning history information and other discretionary services

We'll only be able to provide discretionary services that can be completed electronically. Therefore any requests received which cannot be dealt with in full will be put on hold, the enquirer notified of this and the enquiry completed as soon as possible after government movement restrictions are lifted.

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Planning Enforcement

We may not be fully investigating matters where significant harm cannot be demonstrated.

Most site visits have currently been suspended, unless in exceptional circumstances.

The Planning Enforcement team will aim to make an initial investigation of complaints within the first 28 days, although at the current time this may take slightly longer. Complainants will be advised of any significant action or developments relating to the case as and when they arise, or if this case is closed.

We'll also take a pragmatic approach to some developments which are undertaken purely to cope with the impact of coronavirus.

We'll inform you of our intended course of action when triaging a complaint.

The planning enforcement team can be contacted by email: planning.enforcement@york.gov.uk.

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Building Control

We are currently only accepting Building Regulations applications electronically with payment via BACS (invoicing as a secondary alternative).

No paper applications or cheques can be accepted and dealt with at the present time.

Site inspection requests should still be made at statutory stages. These will be recorded for reference against any project. Attendance will be risk assessed against the type of inspection and latest government guidance on coronavirus

Our current aim is to attend inspection requests for:

  • foundation excavations
  • below ground drainage
  • key structural work

We're also still maintaining our normal call out facility for dangerous structures.

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Design, Conservation and Sustainable Development

The Design, Conservation and Sustainable Development (DCSD) service includes:

  • landscape issues
  • protected trees
  • protected hedgerows
  • nature conservation

The DCSD service continues, however site visits will not be carried out until further notice. Site visits may relate to:

  • archaeology
  • listed buildings
  • other built heritage inspections

There may be rare exceptions where a site visit is deemed necessary and thoroughly risk assessed as appropriate and safe.

We'll actively promote more extensive provision of digital material to assist us in our assessments and use existing online tools and centres of research. We hope to be able to continue to advise fully but where this is not possible due to the circumstances, there will be instances where decisions will need to be delayed or deferred.

Due regard has been given to the equalities impact of the above noted temporary changes, which are considered to be justified in these exceptional circumstances.

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Also see

Planning Enquiries

DM Business Support, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

Telephone: 01904 551553