Changed procedures for planning applications

South Somerset District Council Planning have today (26 March 2020) provided this guidance to the Parish Council re planning applications:

“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 publicly 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.”
The key changes for the Parish Council are:
1. We will now only receive consutations by email – ie no paper copies. The SSDC website will contain all of the documents submitted relating to the application.
2. When we e-mail our comments we will 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’. 
SSDC are working from home wherever possible and are considering alternative ways to undertake site visits, using technology as much as possible (things like photos, live streaming, video conferences etc). They are also working to establish a suitable method of holding Planning Committees. 
New style neighbour letters and site notices will be issued soon. This directs members of the public online to view and comment on applications. You are encouraged to use this method to aid the planning process at this time.
Any enforcement breaches are to be reported via the appropriate form and in line with instructions available on the SSDC 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.