(1) The Head of Planning Applications Group reported her Urgent decision to not pursue enforcement action for the temporary development of a place of rest on the former County Workshop site at Aylesford. This decision had been taken under section 10.15 of the Constitution which empowered KCC Officers to take action on urgent matters where there was no time to consult with the Committee or for the Committee to exercise its function.
(2) The Head of Planning Applications Group went on to say that, under the circumstances described, the Constitution required Officers to consult with the Chair of the Committee as well as Local Members if time permitted.
(3) A Non-Executive Officer Record of Decision had been completed by the relevant Officer setting out the decision taken and the reasons for it. This included a summary of the key points raised by those Members consulted.
(4) The Head of Planning Applications Group then set out her decision as follows:-
For a temporary place of rest in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the former County Workshops Site, Aylesford to agree that the County Council as Planning Authority exercises its discretion not to pursue enforcement action and concludes that it is not expedient to take enforcement action for the temporary development of a place of rest on the former County Workshop site Aylesford, subject to the following conditions:
(1) On or before 31st December 2022
(i) Any use of the land for the purpose of a temporary place of rest shall cease and any associated buildings, plant, machinery, structures and erections on site erected for this purpose shall be removed; and
(ii) the land shall be restored to its condition before the development took place.
(2) The operator to ensure compliance with relevant legislation relating to the facility.
(3) The Head of Planning Applications Group then set out the reasons for her decision. It related to a request by the Director of Infrastructure for
the temporary development of a marquee structure, a ‘Nutwell’ temporary unit and security fencing on the site of the former County Workshops Site in Aylesford to provide a temporary place of rest to respond to the covid-19 pandemic. Under the circumstances, a decision was sought as to whether the County Council as planning authority would exercise its discretion not to pursue enforcement action and conclude that it is not expedient to take enforcement action for the temporary development.
(4) In concluding that it was not expedient to take enforcement action, the Head of Planning Applications Group had regard to the following factors:-
(a) The discretionary function of planning enforcement. Such action should only be taken when it was expedient to do so, having regard to all material considerations. Local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control;
(b) The Written Ministerial Statement of Robert Jenrick, dated 13 March 2020, which emphasised the discretionary nature of enforcement action, particularly in light of the issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic;
(c) An additional temporary place of rest was` required within the County as a contingency to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in light of pressures associated with the Omicron variant;
(d) The County Council had an obligation under the Civil Contingency Act 2004 to take the lead in responding to humanitarian impacts that result from an emergency;
(e) The previous Statutory Instrument (SI) 2020.412 which temporarily introduced permitted development rights to address development matters arising as a result of covid-19. This provided, subject to certain criteria being met, additional permitted development rights to local authorities. Where the specified criteria were satisfied, development was deemed to be permitted and a planning application was not required. This legislation lapsed in December 2020, requiring an urgent decision in advance of Government re-enacting such legislation.
(f) The proposed development satisfied the criteria set out in the earlier permitted development legislation.
(g) Planning merits considerations which balanced the need for the development against economic, environmental, and social considerations.
(5) The Head of Planning Applications Group said that, In this instance, she was satisfied that the temporary and pressing need for the development outweighed other planning considerations. She noted that:-
(a) The operator would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the relevant legislation relating to the facility. No post-mortem examinations or tissue/organ sampling would be taking place on site and there would be no public access. Operational procedures would be put in place to ensure that, during operation and decommissioning, environmental impact was minimised; and
(b) Given the dynamic nature of the emergency response to the pandemic, legislative support for such activities was fast changing. Should the government not re-enact the Statutory Instrument relating to permitted development rights in a reasonable period of time, the Director of Infrastructure had confirmed that a retrospective planning application for the development of the temporary facility would be made.
(6) The Head of Planning Applications reported that the Local Members, Cabinet Members and the Chairmen of the Planning Applications Committee and the Regulation Committee had been consulted and that she had received no objection. A number had supported the proposal.
(7) The Head of Planning Applications Group had also considered whether use of Urgency Powers was justified. She had concluded that it was as there was a pressing need to provide for an additional temporary place of rest within the County as a contingency to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in light of current pressures associated with the Omicron variant. In this instance, there had been insufficient time for a retrospective planning application to be considered by the Council’s Planning Applications Committee. The decision was taken late December 2021.
(8) RESOLVED that the report be noted.