Coronavirus (Covid-19) Planning, Building Control and Land Charges Information

General operational information

Our Planning Service is operating in the face of unprecedented challenges. We are continuing to react and bring forward different ways of working as quickly as possible. Workloads however across the service are high. This combined with different working arrangements both for Council staff and also external partners is causing delays and therefore response times from Officers will be longer than normal. 

Council offices are closed but officers can be contacted

Council offices are currently closed to the public. We are following the government advice and our officers are working remotely from their homes. Most officers are enabled for home working and can be contacted via email. Some officers can be contacted via mobile phones, others are able to access answerphone messages remotely and will get back to you as soon as they are able. Be aware that many officers are balancing work with caring responsibilities.

Planning applications

We are now undertaking site visits for the vast majority of planning applications where it is safe to do so. There may be cases where we are unable to undertake a site visit safely and in those situations the determination of the application may be delayed. 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.

We will not delay our decision-making unnecessarily but we are very grateful for your understanding and co-operation in situations where delays do arise.

Site visits and site notices

Site Notices are now being displayed. Site visits are being undertaken where the layout of the site enables the site visit to be undertaken externally and in a way that ensures that all social distancing guidelines can be adhered to. Agents and or/ applicants will be contacted before a site visit is undertaken to ensure that the site visit can take place safely. Site visits that require internal access are likely to be postponed until further notice and we will request an extension of time for the determination of the application in those circumstances.

Applications may take longer

It is likely that there will be some delays as we are working under very different circumstances. If we are unable to fulfill statutory consultation requirements we will have to delay making a decision. We will not be able to make a decision on the planning application until the consultation is completed. 

We are introducing new processes for validating and determining applications as we are working remotely with limited travel. 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. We will be asking applicants and agents for extensions of time on applications where necessary. 

Submission/Validation 

Send your applications and payments electronically either the Planning Portal or via email to ceplanning@cheshireeast.gov.uk to save additional delays.

Hard copy correspondence is limited

We need to process electronically as much as possible to reduce risks to our customers and staff. If you have submitted an application we will be sending correspondence electronically where an email address has been provided. If you are an agent who doesn’t usually accept emails but can on a temporary basis, email ceplanning@cheshireeast.gov.uk.

We will be processing essential printing once a week.

Submitting additional information

You can submit additional information or revised information by email to to ceplanning@cheshireeast.gov.uk.

Applications can be amended via the Planning Portal, but please notify us by email.

We understand that it may take longer for our applicants/agents to provide additional/revised information. We will stop returning applications after the 21 days if information requested is not received until further notice. 

Paying for applications

If you have submitted your planning application via the Planning Portal you should make your payment at the same time. If you submit by email to Cheshire East Council you can pay online www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/payments. Planning applications and other fees can if necessary be paid over the phone by calling 0300 123 5014.

Extensions to hours of construction

Any changes to the permitted hours of working and associated deliveries for development sites where the hours are restricted by planning condition must be agreed with the Local Planning Authority in writing for minor short term changes or by way of an application to vary the condition for longer term and/or significant changes. Initial requests can be made to PEnforcement@cheshireeast.gov.uk. In order for requests to be considered they must indicate the proposed hours, the duration of the extension request and the nature of operations to be undertaken during any agreed extended hours. Requests should not include Sunday or Bank Holiday working and no request should exceed 13 May 2021.

Where there is no planning condition activities remain subject to controls under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and consultation must be undertaken with the Council’s Environmental Protection services at Environmental.Protection2@cheshireeast.gov.uk before any agreed changes are implemented.

Activities taking place during any agreed extended hours should be limited to non-noise generative activities or works on the interior of properties only or where there is a significant buffer between activities and residential properties, having regard to the fact that many people continue to self isolate or work from home. The Council reserves the right to review any informally agreed extended hours should complaints from the public be received.

Pre-applications and other services

We continue to provide advice and accept pre-application submissions. Submissions and payments should be made electronically where possible, postal receipting is limited.  We are still able to provide a full range of pre-application advice services. Where possible this will be completed by exchange of electronic information, with any discussion and meetings taking place over the phone.

We are aiming to be able to use appropriate video-conferencing applications to conduct meetings, but at the present time we may be limited to phone calls and teleconferencing. We are not able to undertake a site visit as part of our pre-application service. Any additional information, visual and written, that you can supply with your submission will assist the process.

Hard copies of information and documents from the Planning service

If you urgently require hard copies of plans, documents, or forms that are not available on our website contact our Customer Services Team on 0300 123 5014.

Planning history information and other discretionary services

Due to the current situation we are unable to deliver the history search service and similar functions as we have limited access to microfiche or other non-electronic records. We will hold any requests received which cannot be dealt with now to be completed as soon as possible.

Commenting on a planning application

Comments should be submitted electronically via the planning section of Cheshire East website using the appropriate planning reference number.

If you don't have access to the internet or email ask a relative or friend to email them on your behalf to ceplanning@cheshireast.gov.uk or to submit them via the Cheshire East website. If you are unable to arrange for someone to submit your comments electronically contact our Customer Service team on 0300 123 5014.

There may be a delay with comments being published to the website but they will still be received and considered by the planning officer.

Publicity of applications 

We publish planning applications on the online Planning register, the Cheshire East website and advertise in the local press in the normal way. Neighbour notification letters continue to be sent to residents abutting the application site. The display of Site Notices had initially been suspended following the lockdown, but  this has now been resumed for all applications where they are required under our normal procedures.

If you have any comments to make, you should respond to the planning department within the timescales set out in the letter.

Planning consultee update

Receipt of statutory consultee responses. We are experiencing delays with the receipt of consultation responses, which may result in a delay to a planning application and a request for an extension of time. The Council may legitimately determine any planning application following the end of the consultation process and will retain full discretion on whether it may be appropriate to determine any particular planning application in the absence of a response from any consultee.

Consultation with Town and Parish Councils. The current consultation arrangements for Town and Parish Councils will remain unchanged. We suggest that Town and Parish Councils put procedures in place to consider their responses on planning applications electronically if they are not holding formal meetings. This will ensure that applications are not delayed as a result. We are aware that some Town and Parish Councils may be choosing to suspend some normal business so please check with your own local council.

Planning committees and other meetings

The Government has introduced regulations to allow committee meetings to be held remotely. We have successfully held “virtual” planning committee meetings with public engagement for our Strategic Planning Board, Northern Planning Committee and Southern Planning Committee. This process will be kept under review. Please monitor the Council Meetings pages for more up to date information.

Other application types - Prior notification

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 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’. 

Planning Enforcement

Planning enforcement continues and we will conduct site visits where it is safe to do so. There is new legislation to allow certain temporary changes of use to takeaways. We will also take a pragmatic approach to some developments which are undertaken purely to cope with the impact of COVID 19. We will inform you of our intended course of action when triaging your complaint.

Building Control

Building Control application submissions and plan-checking processes continue as normal. You should submit applications electronically either via the Planning Portal, Submit-a-plan, or email to building.control@cheshireeast.gov.uk.  Receipting of post will only be undertaken once a week with limited access to council offices.

Building control payments

You can make Building Regulation application payments via the Council’s website www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/payments, quote the Building Regulation reference number. We can accept card payments the phone if necessary by calling 07956 076396, 07596 076386 or 07725 651675

Building control inspections

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 such as drainage/excavation visits and cannot be done via 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. You can request a site inspection by calling 07956 076396 or 07596 076386 as we are not currently based in the office.   Alternatively, you can request a non same day visit via email at building.control@cheshireeast.gov.uk.

Builders who normally contact surveyors directly can continue to do so.

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, we may postpone if required.

Community Infrastructure Levy

CIL payments are still required and 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.

Land Charges

We are expecting minimal disruption to the service, but we have limited access to postal search requests and some non electronic records. We will ensure we communicate any foreseeable challenges directly.

The Personal Searches service will continue to be facilitated by email and still remain under the current unchecked and unrefined data provision. For further details contact landcharges@cheshireeast.gov.uk

We will process payments for searches via a postal cheque once a week. You can make a payment via the phone on 07894 534806.

Preparation of the Local Plan and Supplementary Planning Documents

The Council’s Strategic Planning Team is continuing its work on preparing additional parts of the local plan (referred to as development plan documents or DPDs for short) and supplementary planning documents (SPDs).

The DPDs currently being prepared are: the Site Allocations and Development Policies Document; the Minerals and Waste Development Plan Document and the Crewe Hub Area Action Plan.

Supplementary Planning Documents provide additional planning guidance to support the implementation of development plan policies. Two SPDs are currently in preparation – one for the Brooks Lane, Middlewich Strategic Location and one regarding Houses in Multiple Occupation. 

The way in which DPDs and SPDs are prepared is governed by national regulations. These regulations have recently been temporarily changed removing the requirement to make physical copies of documents available at particular stages of their production. This is in response to the current COVID 19 situation and the continued need for social distancing. The way in which public consultation and engagement is carried out when preparing these documents is also governed by the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) 2018. This is now being reviewed to align it with the temporary changes in the regulations.

Neighbourhood Plans

Communities preparing neighbourhood plans may continue to progress toward submission and run regulation 14 consultations based solely on remote access to documents.

Regulation 16 consultations will be postponed until either new legislation is introduced or restrictions around access to public buildings is lifted as they require public access to documents.  

All neighbourhood plan referendums are suspended until 6 May 2021. Further guidance on this is available via the National Planning Practice Guidance.