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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.

Related FAQs

How the furlough scheme changed from 1 July – what is flexible furlough?

From 1 July 2020 the furlough scheme has been operating more flexibly.

The key changes from 1 July 2020 were:

  • All furloughed employees are subject to the new flexible furlough rules and the new basis for calculating claims
  • Furloughed employees can be brought back to work on a part-time basis for any amount of time and can work any work pattern
  • Employers can claim for the hours not worked compared the hours the person would normally have worked in that period
  • There must be a new written furlough agreement in place to record the agreement with the furloughed employee to return to work part-time
  • The new agreement (including a collective agreement) must be made before any period of flexible furlough begins but it may be varied at a later stage if necessary. The agreement must be incorporated into the employee’s contract of employment, either expressly or impliedly
  • Employers must keep a record of this agreement until at least 30 June 2025, and they must also keep a record of the hours the furlough employee worked and the hours that they were furloughed
  • Employees can be furloughed from 1 July 2020 for any amount of time and more than once
  • However, if you re-furloughed an employee after 10 June but before 1 July 2020, they had to be furloughed for an initial period of three consecutive weeks
  • Claims for payments under the scheme must not cross calendar months so if you are claiming for the initial three week period of a re-furloughed employee who was furloughed on 12 June for example, you must submit separate claims for the dates in June and July
  • Although flexible furlough agreements can last any length of time, you should only submit a claim to HMRC once a week.
Can I ask my employees to travel for work during the national lockdown?

As above, people must not leave their home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ and travelling should be limited to their local area. Employees may leave their home and local area to travel for work if they cannot reasonably work from home. You should attempt to reduce the number of journeys they make.

How do you ensure clinical governance around MHFAs?

MHFAs are not qualified mental health medical professionals and they should not be diagnosing or giving medical advice, however, their training will equip them to provide initial support to those experiencing symptoms of mental ill health, and to signpost to further professional help when needed. The MHFA training makes the boundaries of the MHFA role very clear and there should be clearly defined role specifications, procedures and support pathways in place to ensure that individuals are referred on appropriately. There should be peer support in place for MHFAs and a system in place to ensure no individual or individuals are overloaded.

What is the NICE guidance around clinical decision-making?
  • Be alert to the fact that guidance on treating Covid-19 may change with emerging knowledge/scientific data and this may require subsequent modifications to treatment.
  • Critical care staff should support healthcare professionals who do not routinely work in critical care but need to do so.
Understanding of the extent of the Covid-19 risk to BAME colleagues is evolving – what does that mean for NHS employers?

In practice this means that any risk assessment will need to be reviewed constantly and adjusted as our understanding of the nature and level of the risk grows.

Some service-providers are instigating special Oversight Groups to keep this issue under review but engagement and consultation with those affected is critical and making sure they feel confident to raise concerns and refuse to work if they believe they are not safe.