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Published 9 abril 2020
One of the key resources for the NHS and other public authorities in meeting the additional demands of COVID-19 response is buildings and land. The London Nightingale Hospital has been a trailblazer for the repurposing of land in this way and many more examples can be expected in the coming weeks and months.
The planning system has also had to adapt to the urgent need to change the use of land, so that public authorities can deliver the extra services they must without falling foul of the proper procedures.
From April 9th, health service bodies and local authorities in England are permitted to undertake development on land that they own, lease, occupy or maintain for the purposes of preventing, reducing, controlling, mitigating the effects of, or taking action in connection with, an emergency. For this purpose, an emergency is an event or situation that threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom, and this definition is further restricted to events having specific effects, ranging from loss of life to disruption to essential services.
Development carried out using these powers is subject to a number of conditions:
The health service bodies that can use these powers are specified and include trusts, CCGs, and bodies such as CQC and NICE. Where development under these powers is carried out by health services bodies they will have to notify the local planning authority as soon as practicably possible of their occupation of a building and land.
Local authorities in Wales have been permitted to undertake these types of development since March 30th, but those powers do not extend to health service bodies in Wales. There are no restrictions in the scale or location of developments under the Welsh powers, and development is permitted for 12 months from the date it begins rather than a fixed deadline.
NHS bodies and local authorities will welcome the certainty provided by these new powers, confirming that they can repurpose land and buildings where necessary to provide additional resources in tackling COVID-19.
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