To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the ability for due diligence to take place in respect of (a) the proposed development by EDF of the Sizewell C nuclear power station and (b) other significant planning applications.
The planning system has a vital role to play in supporting the United Kingdom’s economic recovery and it should continue to operate effectively during the Covid-19 emergency while adhering to the Government’s guidance on social distancing. A written ministerial statement (Virtual working and planning – Responding to Covid–19 Restrictions, 13 May 2020 (HCWS235)) by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government made clear that moving to digital events and processes will be critical and that these can be put in place in the vast majority of cases to allow for the participation of all parties.
The Government fully supports the Planning Inspectorate’s programme for moving to digital events and it expects such events to be taking place virtually by mid-June, other than in exceptional circumstances. The method by which hearings and events are conducted is a matter for the Inspectorate, operating in accordance with their legal obligations.
The application for development of the Sizewell C nuclear power station was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 27 May 2020. After receipt of the application, the Planning Inspectorate has 28 days to review the application and decide whether or not to accept it. If the application is accepted, it will be examined in public. The public will be able to register with the Planning Inspectorate to become an Interested Party. Any interested party can make representations to the examining authority on any aspect of the project.
The Government expects everyone involved in the planning process to engage proactively and the Inspectorate published guidance on 28 May 2020 on how interested parties and members of the public can participate in the examination process, including accessing documents online and attending virtual hearings. This guidance can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-planning-inspectorate-guidance.