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The Government has introduced new temporary permitted development rights to help local authorities and health bodies respond to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

The Town and County Planning (General Permitted Development) (Coronavirus) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 came into effect at 10 am on 9 April 2020. The order allows local authorities and health service bodies to carry out development where it is required to prevent an emergency, to reduce or control or mitigate the effects of an emergency, or to take other action in connection with an emergency.

Permitted Development
The new permitted development rights allow local authorities and health service bodies to carry out development on land owned, leased, occupied or maintained by them. Development may include a change of use of an existing building or land, or involve the carrying out of works and construction of new buildings and structures – this is a very broad, albeit temporary, permitted development right.
Although clearly aimed at the current Corovnavirus pandemic, the permitted development right is available to deal with any "emergency". "Emergency" is defined as any event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom. An event or situation is defined as threatening 'serious damage to welfare' if it involves, causes or may cause: loss of human life, human illness or injury; homelessness; damage to property; disruption of a supply of money, food, water, energy, or fuel; disruption of a system of communication; disruption of facilities for transport; or disruption to health services.

Consequently, the PDR could be used for a broad range of facilities to help respond to Coronavirus, as well as potentially used to tackle other emergency situations beyond Coronavirus. We have already seen the creation of temporary NHS Nightingale hospitals, but the PDR could also allow the temporary use of existing buildings or creation of new structures to provide services ancillary to hospitals, such as testing facilities, mortuaries, or temporary accommodation for health staff.
There are few limitations on the size or scale of development other than height and proximity to residential dwellings. If a building is within 10 metres of the boundary of the land, then the height must not exceed 6 metres. If the building is not within 10 metres of the boundary of the land, then the height must not exceed 18 metres or the height of the original building (whichever is greater). Development is not permitted under Class A if the development would be within 5 metres of the boundary of the curtilage of a dwellinghouse. Any moveable structure, works, plant or machinery must also not be located within 10 metres of any boundary of the curtilage of a dwellinghouse or within 5 metres of any boundary of land.
Temporary rights

The new PDR is temporary and subject to the condition that the use of the land pursuant to Class A ceases on or before 31 December 2020, which is a surprisingly short period of time. The developer must also remove all structures, works etc carried out under Class A and restore the land to its previous condition, or such other condition that may be agreed with the local planning authority, within 12 months of the use of the land for the purposes of Class A ceasing.

Developers should also note that, unless they are the local planning authority, they must serve notice of development under class A on the local planning authority as soon as practicable after commencement.