Covid-19 impact on planning processes

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.


The Planning Service is still operating but there may be some unavoidable delays in our response times.  Our staff are working hard to deal with a high volume of enquiries at this time.

The Council supports our staff to work flexibly.  This means that some officers may work different hours.

We have brought forward new ways of working and will continue to do as required. We use prepared letters and emails.  Not all have been updated.  Some of these may refer to ways of working that have been temporarily suspended or changed. 

You can find out about the impact on Covid on services in:

Please bear with us.  We are mindful of the personal pressures that a third lockdown places on us all.  Please be considerate when communicating with our staff.

We are following Government advice and our officers are mostly working from home.   All officers are contactable from home via email.  If you wish to speak to an officer, you can:

  • call an officer’s mobile phone or
  • leave a message on office landlines. 

They will get back to you as soon as they are able.    Officers may be balancing work with caring responsibilities and working different patterns. 

It is not possible to see an officer at a Council office. Our officers are working remotely to ensure the safety of our staff and our residents.  Planning agents and applicants may also be working from home.  Please let us know any new address for correspondence.  We will then update our records until you tell us otherwise.  You can contact us via:

All face-to-face meetings are cancelled.  Officers can arrange meetings by Microsoft Teams or by telephone. Teams is the Council’s preferred choice.  Officers may be able to join meetings on other Apps such as:

  • Zoom
  • WhatsApp 

But please check first.  It is not possible to use iPhone Facetime.

We are determining applications.  There may be some delays as:

  • we are working differently
  • some processes take a little longer. 

We are also receiving more general planning enquiries.  Validation times are being affected.  Our planning enforcement team are also receiving more enquiries.  Please bear with us as it might take a little longer to respond to your query.

We will not delay our decision-making unnecessarily.  For example, not all applications will need a site visit. We may have enough knowledge or can access information on our systems to allow us to consider the proposal properly.  We will only do a site visit:

  • if it is essential
  • after doing a risk assessment and
  • where all options to assess it virtually have been exhausted. 

For pre-application enquiries, we will offer:

  • the desktop option or
  • an unaccompanied visit and a virtual meeting or telephone call.

It may not be possible to determine a Permitted Development Prior Notification in time.  Planning case officers may be unable to fully consider it within the deemed consent period.  We are prioritising Prior Notifications.  If it is not possible, we will try to agree an extended approval date with the applicant. If we cannot agree a new date, prior approval may be refused if the application cannot be considered fully.

We have suspended providing hard copies of:

  • plans
  • documents
  • any planning application forms and
  • the ‘report a breach of planning form’. 

If the matter is urgent please contact us via:

We are doing planning history requests and other discretionary services.  We can only provide those:

  • which can be completed electronically or
  • where we can access manual records

Please see the Planning Fees and Charges Document. Planning history searches are on page 40. We have limited access to non-electronic records at present.  Any requests which cannot be completed will be put on hold.  We will complete them as soon as possible.

You may be considering different options or ways of operating.  Since July we have offered free initial planning advice direct to businesses in a 30-minute virtual meeting. Sessions are available every other month at present.  Please visit What’s new in Planning for details of the next available sessions.  You will need to pre-book a session in advance and slots will be available to book shortly.

You may need more space to work from home.  If you are considering:

  • an annexe, the Council’s Annexe Guidance Note contains information on residential annexes.
  • a home office, you may not need planning permission to use:
    • a room in your house or
    • an outbuilding in your garden as a home office. 

This is as long as the primary purpose of the dwelling and its garden area remains residential.  For example, you may not need planning permission if you:

  • work on a computer or
  • use hairdressing equipment in a dining room or a garden shed and
  • clients attend one at a time and by appointment only.

Please have a look at Do I need planning consent or building regulations? for more information and a link to the Government’s Planning Portal.  You can also check if a planning condition has removed your Permitted Development Rights.

You can access the latest technical guidance such as Annexe guidance using this link: Planning Technical Updates

Planning permission is usually required for businesses to put:

  • tables
  • chairs and
  • other temporary furniture outside their boundary.

But if a pavement licence is granted, it will automatically grant planning permission as well.  The Business and Planning Act 2020 made it easier to get a pavement licence. Licences can remain in place until September 2021. The Government intends to extend this to 30 September 2022. We will not ask for a planning application for these works or enforce as long as:

  • there are no public safety implications
  • the works are temporary
  • the works are adjoining the business. 

We trust that businesses will work together and consider impacts on neighbours.  More information is on our website: Social distancing: a guide for towns, parishes and businesses

From 12 April 2021, self-catering accommodation can open.  This includes caravan sites.

Cornwall is expecting a busy holiday season.  You may be able to use land temporarily for camping pitches.  The Government gives permitted development rights for persons to use land for temporary uses such as camp sites:

  • for up to 28 days in any calendar year
  • without the need to submit a planning application. 

These rights will not apply in areas where there is an Article 4 Direction.  An Article 4 Direction removes these permitted development rights. Please note that the 28 days has been extended to 56 days at present.  This will be:

  • until 31 December 2021 and
  • to help support businesses. 

Some small scale camping sites may benefit from permitted development rights.  They must be affiliated to an exempted organisation such as the caravan and camping club.  A site licence is also not always required for these.  Other exceptions include:

  • ‘pop up’ sites unless they become more regular or permanent
  • sites used for agricultural work activities
  • other groups or activities such as travelling showmen.

Where planning permission is required a number of factors will apply.  These affect whether planning permission or a site licence is granted and include:

  • the location of the development
  • is it sustainable
  • impact on the landscape including the impact of any designated areas such as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • highway safety
  • impact on the amenity of neighbouring sites
  • how the site is laid out and
  • whether the number of pitches is appropriate.

Please seek advice before starting any works.  Please email:

New planning changes give greater flexibility in town centre uses: changes to the Use Class Order. It introduces:

  • a new use class ‘E’ (for commercial, business and service).   This includes previous use classes for:
    • shops
    • financial and professional services
    • restaurants and cafes and
    • some businesses. 
    • new use classes F1 and F2 for community uses. 

This means:

  • Businesses can offer a takeaway service without applying for planning permission until 23 March 2022
  • Land can be used temporarily for a market for longer without needing a planning application, from 14 to 28 days.  This will be allowed until March 2022.

As well as the changes to the Use Class Order for flexible town centres uses, the Government have introduced Regulations that permit:

  • further temporary changes of use
  • demolition of vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes
  • building of new storeys on houses and flats,
  • building of new storeys on buildings to provide new self-contained homes. 

The regulations are complicated and detailed:

They set out how the prior approval application process will work.

Minimum space standards will apply from 6 April 2021.  These will apply to all homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights.  This means that these new homes will have to meet the Nationally Described Space Standard.  This is to ensure they provide proper living space.

Prior approval of permitted development rights to extend buildings upwards came into force on 30 December 2020. The Building Safety Programme letter contains more guidance.

New rules allowing commercial premises to be converted into home came into force on 31 March 2021.

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