What started as an epidemic limited to China has now become a truly global pandemic. Its effects have been felt throughout many sectors including those impacted by planning law, and below we set out the main changes and issues relating to planning enforcement that you should be aware of as of 2 July 2020. The situation is constantly changing, and we will aim to provide the most up-to-date information where possible.

Further advice regarding the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on planning law, and how to prepare for any impact on your business, is offered by the Freeths Planning team. Please contact us should you wish to know more.

English Local Planning Authorities urged to carry out pragmatic enforcement of delivery restrictions

Due to amenity concerns, many supermarkets, food retailers and distribution centres are subject to on-going planning conditions that restrict the time and number of deliveries from lorries and other delivery vehicles, particularly at night.  On 13 March the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government published a Written Ministerial Statement asking Local Planning Authorities to be pragmatic and not to carry out enforcement action that would result in unnecessary restrictions on deliveries during the Coronavirus outbreak. Back to the top

Councils' discretionary power to withdraw, waive or relax enforcement notices

Local Planning Authorities have a discretionary power to withdraw, or waive or relax the requirements of, any enforcement notice issued by them (s173A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended)).An Inspector recently used their decision in an enforcement appeal (decision here) as an opportunity to highlight LPAs' powers to extend the time for compliance with an enforcement notice as they were “aware of the uncertain situation that currently exists with regard to COVID-19”. The Inspector did close by recognising that section 173A is “a purely discretionary power within the Council's gift to exercise”, and in fact in this decision the enforcement notice (which related to the erection of a dwellinghouse built without the benefit of planning permission and required its demolition and reinstatement of the land to its former condition within 12 months) was upheld.We wonder whether as the Coronavirus outbreak continues whether Inspectors in future enforcement decisions may, following receipt of relevant representations, extend the compliance period. We consider that practically it is likely this will depend on the form of compliance required and how compatible carrying it out is with Government guidance. An early example of this was an Inspector extending the compliance period to stop a residential dwelling being used as a house in multiple occupation specifically due to new Government legislation to give all tenants three months' notice before ending a tenancy to assist renters in the Coronavirus outbreak. The Inspector consider a four month extension period was necessary. A copy of the appeal decision is hereBack to the top

Community Infrastructure Levy enforcement - re-emphasised as discretionary

On 30 June in updated guidance, the Government emphasised that collecting authorities' powers to levy surcharges and take enforcement action (such as issuing a CIL Stop Notice, which is akin to a planning stop notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) is discretionary. Late payment interest is not discretionary.After the deferment mechanism is in effect it will be interesting to see how collecting authorities use these discretionary powers, especially for those developers who are unable to benefit from the legislation changes but are undoubtedly impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak.For more information on changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy, please see our update here.Back to the top

Our Planning team can help you navigate the impact of Coronavirus on planning law and your business. Contact Robert Bruce and Stephanie Gozney for planning-related legal enquiries and Paul Brailsford and Mark Harris for planning consultancy enquiries. This update was originally published on 8 April 2020 and was last updated on 2 July 2020.Whilst you are here we would also recommend our additional Coronavirus planning updates:

If you would like to talk through the consequences for your business, please email us and one of our team will get in touch.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.