Will site visits, hearings and inquiries still take place?
Due to the new guidance on social distancing and remote working, the Planning Inspectorate initially stated that site visits, hearings and inquiries would be cancelled. However, there is very much a push from the Secretary of State to keep the planning system moving notwithstanding the requirements to adapt to new ways of working. The Government now expects all hearings to be conducted virtually and where a virtual hearing is not possible, the expectation is that alternative arrangements will be put “speedily” in place and in accordance with social distancing requirements.
The Planning Inspectorate have been exploring ways of conducting hearings and inquiries remotely using technological means and conducted their first “digital” hearing on 11 May .
The Business and Planning Act 2020, which entered the statute books on 22 July 2020, includes provisions which allow more flexibility in relation to how appeals are determined including an ability for the Secretary of State to decide to adopt a procedure which is a combination of written representations, a hearing and/or an inquiry.
Site visits have re-commenced where it is safe to do so. The Inspectorate is looking at whether a site visit is necessary and has conducted a trial of “virtual site visits” where sites are assessed by means of photographs or video evidence.
The Planning Inspectorate have subsequently been scaling up conducting digital hearings, which also includes holding virtual local plan examination hearings.
Borrowers will not have to pay a guarantee fee. Lenders will pay a fee to access the scheme. The Government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, allowing smaller businesses to benefit from no upfront cost.
British Business Bank has indicated that following earlier discussions with the banking industry, some lenders indicated that they would not charge arrangement fees or early repayment charges to SMEs borrowing under the scheme. Each business should check the terms of the loans being made to ensure this is the case and what the interest rate and prepayment fees will be following the period in which the Government makes payment of these amounts.
The Thriving at Work Report and the recent NICE Workplace Mental Health Guidelines provide a good baseline for what all organisations should be doing on workplace mental health – this includes some guidance on training. There does need to be a plan in place and we recommend taking a holistic view of the integration of mental health first aiders into a business – ie it should be one component in a strategy that also comprises training for line managers, awareness training and education for all staff, peer support, and a documented framework for support and signposting. It is also worth ensuring you have senior manager sponsorship, strong links with Occupational Health if available and also raising awareness via any works councils or employee forums helps ensure there is buy in at all levels.
No, where employees cannot work from home, and it is safe for them to return to work, they should do so.
Initially, the relaxation applied to supermarkets and food suppliers. This was subsequently widened to apply to other businesses, permitting them to collaborate where necessary to respond to the crisis in the interests of consumers.
Small suppliers (defined by reference to certain financial indicators) are temporarily exempt from these new restrictions until 30th March 2021 in order to account for the difficulties to small suppliers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are also certain industries that are exempt from these restrictions (for example financial services). The Secretary of State may also create further exemptions framed by reference to kinds of company, supplier, contract, goods or services or in any other way.