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Planning and building control

Current service disruption notices

Please be aware that we are working hard to keep the planning service operating effectively in the face of unprecedented challenges.  Our priority is to determine all applications where site visits have been undertaken.  We have suspended all site visits and meetings at the moment and we are considering alternative ways of working to protect our staff and our residents.  We have changed our procedures for Planning Committees, site notices, availability of information by hard copy and office availability.  For more details on our revised processes, please see our FAQs Covid-19 impact on planning processes and bear with us at this difficult time. Thank you for your understanding. 

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The Planning Service relies on a number of prepared letters, emails and other notifications. Given the speed of change it has not been possible to update these documents and they may refer to ways of working which have been temporary suspended or changed. The keys changes in our working practices are captured in these FAQs.

We have recently started including updates from Cornwall for the development and construction industry in the weekly Covid updates being published by Building Plymouth.  We hope you find the range of information and articles helpful.

Yes. As the crisis continues we are trying hard to keep the Planning Service operating effectively in the face of unprecedented challenges. We are continuing to respond and bring forward different ways of working as quickly as possible. Please bear with us whilst we put plans in place, we will continue to update the website as often as we can.

We are following the government advice and our officers are working remotely from their homes. There will be no planning presence in offices. Most officers are enabled for home working and are therefore contactable from home via email. Not all officers are equipped with mobile phones but they are able to access answerphone messages remotely and will get back to you as soon as they are able. Please be mindful that many officers are balancing work with caring responsibilities.

No. Our offices are closed to the public to ensure the safety of our staff and our residents.

Yes. We have been focusing on determining applications where we have already visited the site. Not all applications will require a site visit as we may have sufficient knowledge or can access information on our systems to allow us to properly consider the proposal. However we are now starting to do essential site visits on a case-by-case risk assessed basis and where all options to assess it virtually have been exhausted. We will not delay our decision-making unnecessarily. In the event that a site visit is necessary but we cannot visit the site, we will 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. For pre-application enquiries, we will offer either the desktop option, or where a visit is requested it will be an unaccompanied visit and a virtual meeting or telephone call.

It is likely that there will be some delays as we are working under very different circumstances. Please bear with us while we introduce new processes for validating and determining applications as we are 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 will be asking applicants and agents for extensions of time on applications where necessary.

No, not at present. The Planning Service relies on a number of prepared letters, emails and other notifications. It has not been possible to update all of our standard documents and they may refer to ways of working which have been temporary suspended or changed. The key changes in our working practices are captured in these FAQs.


Submission/validation

No, we apologise but we are unable to accept hard copy applications at this time because we have no way of collecting incoming mail for the time being. If you have posted a hard copy application to us from 23 March onwards you may wish to consider emailing planning@cornwall.gov.uk direct to ensure that we have received your written submission. All hard copies posted since the above date will be on hold. You may wish to consider resubmitting online via the Planning Portal or emailing to us direct at planning@cornwall.gov.uk

To reduce risks to our customers and staff we need to process electronically as much as possible. If you have submitted an application a Validation Officer may contact you and request an email address to use on a temporary basis. If you are an agent who doesn’t usually accept email but can on a temporary basis, please get in touch by emailing planning@cornwall.gov.uk.

We understand that it may take longer for our applicants/agents to provide additional/revised information. Therefore until further notice we will cease returning applications after the 21 days if information requested is not received. Additional/revised information should be emailed to planning@cornwall.gov.uk. Applications can also be amended via the Planning Portal, however please notify us by emailing planning@cornwall.gov.uk

If you have submitted your planning application via the Planning Portal please arrange to pay the Planning Portal direct. If you submit by email to Cornwall Council, payments for planning applications should be made online via the Council’s website /pay-it/ Planning applications and other fees can also be paid over the phone by calling 0300 1234 151. If you pay your planning application fee by phone, please email planning@cornwall.gov.uk to advise that you have paid to help reduce delays.

Government Environmental Impact Assessment guidance does not require this to be submitted in hard copy.  They need to be submitted electronically so it will be available on the Council’s website in the usual way.  The guidance states that applicants should also make copies of the Environmental Statement available to the public.  Either free of charge or at a reasonable cost reflecting printing and distribution costs, which is not part of the Council’s procedures.  Interested parties may wish to check the online planning register for details and contact the applicant or agent direct to arrange.  We recognise that EIA applications can contain a large number of documents which may be difficult to share electronically.  If you are submitting an EIA application please contact planning@cornwall.gov.uk for advice on how best to proceed.

If you have a question regarding a specific application that has been submitted, please contact the validation officer listed on correspondence you may have received. If you have a general question about the submission and validation process, then please contact our General Enquiries team on planning@cornwall.gov.uk.


Pre-applications and other services

We will continue to provide advice via the ‘Do I need Planning Permission’ service (with the exception of hard copy submissions which we are unable to accept at this time). With regards to pre-application advice, at the present time we are able to provide either a desktop only service or, where a visit is requested, it will be an unaccompanied visit and a virtual meeting or telephone call (charged as a pre-app with accompanying site visit).

The additional services for providing hard copies of plans, documents, any planning application forms and the report a breach of planning form is currently suspended. If the matter is urgent please contact our Customer Relations Team on 01872 323984.

Yes but we will only be able to provide discretionary services (pages 8-10 of the Planning Fees and Charges Document)which can be completed electronically or where we can gain access to manual records. This includes history searches as we have limited access to microfiche or other non-electronic records at this time. Any requests received which cannot be dealt with in full will be put on hold and completed as soon as possible.

Yes, however face-to-face design review meetings are currently suspended. The normal dates in our Design Review Panel schedule can be used where convenient for either a conventional Desktop Review or a virtual Consultation and Desktop (utilising Microsoft Teams) provided we have information in advance. Information needs to be received in full 2 working days ahead of an agreed review date. However we do have to agree and book the review date with at least 2 weeks’ notice and the project synopsis must be submitted with that booking. The guidance report should normally be available within 10 working days after the review as usual but it may be possible to issue the report earlier subject to confirmation. Please contact Julie Hoare at planning@cornwall.gov.uk for more information or to book a review slot.


Commenting on a planning application

The best way to send us your comments is to ask a relative or friend to email them to planning@cornwall.gov.uk or to submit them via the online planning register. Planning officers take issues into account (as long as they are material planning considerations) regardless of the sender. If you are unable to arrange for someone to submit comments electronically on your behalf then please contact our Customer Relations team on 01872 323984.

No, we apologise but we are unable to accept comments sent in by post at the moment so please submit your comments electronically. If you have posted hard copy comments to us since 23 March onwards you may wish to email planning@cornwall.gov.uk direct to ensure that we have received your written comments (please mark “possible duplicate?” in the subject line and we will check). There is a risk that any hard copy letters posted since the above date might not be taken into account because we have no way of collecting incoming hard copy mail at present. If you cannot submit comments online, then please contact our Customer Relations team on 01872 323984.

Planning applications etc will be available on the online Planning Register and advertised in the local press in the normal way. However, we will not be displaying a Site Notice for the majority of planning applications at present but will continue to send neighbour notifications to residents abutting a site. The minimum publicity as set out in Planning legislation only requires either a Site Notice or a neighbour notification for most types of applications. However, a site notice will be required for applications for development affecting a Public Right of Way, development representing a departure from the Development Plan, applications for EIA development accompanied by an Environmental Statement, major applications, Permission in Principle, Advertisement Consent, Listed Building Consent for alterations or extension/demolition, and development in a Conservation Area. For these types of applications, we will post a site notice to applicants to display or agree an extension of time until travel restrictions have ended. Temporary changes to how we can engage have been published in our Statement of Community Involvement.

You can register to receive alerts by email for planning applications in your area using ‘Never miss a planning application’


Planning consultees

No, not all:

  • At present South West Water are not able to respond to all consultations.  If you are planning a new development or extending an existing property over, or within 3 metres of public assets, you need to contact South West Water.  Note: SWW will not permit building within 4.5 metres of public water mains, sewage rising mains or sewers on a new development or redevelopment site.  For more information please refer to the information on their website:
  • Cornwall Council Forestry Officers will not be conducting site visits.  If you are submitting an exception notice or application for proposed works to a tree subject to a Tree Preservation Order or in a Conservation Area, you may be required to submit additional photographs.  This will help us to continue to process and issue a decision on your request.
  • Environment Agency officers have indicated that there will be delays to normal response times due to reduced capacity and they may be asking for extra time to respond where necessary. For any queries, please contact: SPDC@environment-agency.gov.uk

The current consultation arrangements for Local Councils will remain unchanged. It is recommended that Local Councils put procedures in place to consider their responses on planning applications electronically in the event that they are not undertaking formal meetings. The Council has provided some examples to Local Councils of how they could do this. This will ensure that applications are not delayed as a result. We are aware that some towns and parish councils may be choosing to suspend some normal business so please check with your own local council.


Planning committees and other meetings

We do not consider that it is currently safe for planning committees to take place and therefore delegation arrangements have been agreed to ensure that planning decisions are progressed in a timely manner in accordance with Government advice.

In terms of planning decisions that would have otherwise been heard at committee, a protocol has been developed to ensure that these applications continue to be fully scrutinised through engagement with the Divisional Member and members of the planning committee. It is recognised that there could be strategically important applications or very contentious applications that might be better held until a full hearing can take place. This 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 in this discussion. Applicants will be informed of this process and their views will be taken into account.

The Government has introduced regulations to allow committee meetings to be held remotely. The detail of the regulations are being reviewed by Democratic Services and Information Systems Officers are exploring ways that this can be enabled. We aim to start virtual Planning Committees on 1 June with the West Planning Sub-Committee. Both Members and officers are involved in extensive preparation including training sessions and mock meetings to ensure virtual planning committees can work as well as possible. Initially we will be having smaller agendas than normal.

All face-to-face meetings are cancelled. Officers can arrange meetings by Skype or by telephone. We are looking at how Skype meetings can be arranged with external participants.

Yes, we can use Skype and Microsoft Teams. Video Apps on phones could also be used eg WhatsApp. However, iPhone Facetime is currently unavailable.

We aim to keep as close to the timelines for actual Committee meetings. The reports will be publicly available in the Committee area of our website alongside Planning Committees around 8-9 working days before the decision is due to be made.

Unfortunately in this period with no committees if you are commenting on a planning application, you will need to ensure your initial comments, either objection or support, contain everything you want to say. Case officers will include all comments that are material planning considerations in their reports in the usual way.


Renewals and prior notifications

The Government has recognised that there may be circumstances where a Local Planning Authority is unable to consider permitted development prior approval within the deemed consent period. We will continue to prioritise these requests but there may be exceptional circumstances where we will seek to agree an extended approval date with the applicant. The Government have indicated ‘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’.

Most applications have a condition which sets out when permission must start. 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 are 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 COVID-19 situation whether any changes will be made to national legislation and regulations proposing changes to commencement time periods generally.

Works would include:

a) any work of construction in the course of erection of a building;

b) any work of demolition of the building;

c) the digging of a trench which is to contain the foundations, or part of the foundations of any building;

d) the laying of any underground main pipe to the foundations or part of the foundations of a building;

e) any operation in the course of laying out or constructing a road or part of a road;

f) any change in the use of the land which constitutes material development.

However this is a complex area of law which cannot be easily or completely summarised in this FAQ.  A useful judgement concluded that “….planning permissions with only a meagre part implemented were hardy beasts with a great capacity for survival. All that is required is that the works must comprise part of the development authorised by the planning permission and be more than de minimis”.

The commencement of development can only be confirmed by submitting a Certificate of Lawfulness.  However we also offer an informal response from a case officer on what constitutes a material start, ie how much work needs to be carried out before submitting the certificate?  A fee is charged for the service as detailed in our current Fees and Charges Document.


Enforcement

Yes, but we may not be fully investigating matters where significant harm cannot be demonstrated. There is new legislation to allow certain temporary changes of use such as take-aways; construction sites are allowed to request to extend their working hours. We will inform you of our intended course of action when triaging your complaint (Step 2 of the process detailed on our enforcement flow chart

Yes, if the developer has made a request to the Council.  The Government published a written ministerial statement on 13 May 2020 about planning and construction working hours. It expects local planning authorities to approve requests to extend construction working hours to 9pm Monday – Saturday for a temporary period until May 2021.   Cornwall Council are already receiving these requests from developers.


Building Regulations

Yes. Building Control application submissions and plan-checking processes continue as normal. Please note that all paper applications need to be sent to: Cornwall Council Building Control, PO Box 676, Threemilestone, Truro, TR4 9LD.

Building Regulation application payments can be made via the Council’s website /pay-it/. Please quote the Building Regulation reference number. Card payments are also accepted over the phone by calling 01872 224792, Option 3.

Yes. Whilst construction sites remain open and/or controlled DIY and self-build work continues, Building Control will continue to carry out Building Regulation checks. They will follow strict protocols: visits only where absolutely necessary and cannot be done through photos/video calls and only where officers are happy to do so. This position will be monitored daily.

Applicants/builders should notify Building Control for any site inspection requests as normal. A Building Control surveyor will either attend site as normal, or in some cases will contact the applicant/builder to discuss the works needing inspection and the most appropriate way of doing that.


Community Infrastructure Levy

Yes, we will be continuing to process CIL matters and issuing Liability Notices as development is granted permission.  Payment of CIL is triggered by commencement of development, so if development commences, CIL becomes payable.  A new Instalment Policy came into effect from 1 April 2020, which delays initial payment by six months and then allows six months in between payments.  Any development which commences whilst this Instalment Policy is in place, will have those payment terms applied and set out in the Demand Notice.  If you have any queries about making payments, please contact the Infrastructure Team at cil@cornwall.gov.uk


Local Land Charges

We are expecting to take a bit longer than normal, and certain properties will not be possible at present but this will be advised on a case-by-case basis.

Yes, but the service will be facilitated by email and still remain under the current unchecked and unrefined data provision. For further details, please contact Land Charges direct on landcharges@cornwall.gov.uk

Payment methods haven’t changed. The quickest, safest and secure method would be to have an account and pay monthly. We would advise fees for each search and list all activity within your monthly invoice. Alternatively you can pay by card via a call secure system by telephone as at present.


Public consultations

Most public consultations are postponed at present with the exception of the Climate Change Development Plan Document scoping consultation. Our Statement of Community Involvement contains information on how we will be engaging with the community at the current time.

Yes, the climate emergency called by Council makes it essential that we create new planning rules to help address climate change as soon as we can. Consultation (known as Regulation 18 scoping consultation) started on 30 March and ends on 26 May 2020. This is the first and most informal stage of consultation and will gather ideas and evidence to help create the final document.

The first round of consultation will be held predominantly online, and no face-to-face events or exhibitions will be organised during the current health emergency.  The scoping consultation can be found on the climate change development plan document page and you can comment by sending the response form to climatechange.dpd@cornwall.gov.uk.


Other general information