Our approach to planning requirements – Coronavirus update

Supporting businesses and the local economy - update on our approach to planning requirements

We wish to support economic recovery and help local businesses adapt to the current social distancing requirements. We recognise that this is a challenging time for many businesses, and we will be taking a pragmatic approach to planning requirements, to support businesses wherever possible.

This page provides an update for businesses on our approach to planning requirements during the recovery period. Many businesses may need to make changes to their arrangements as a result of COVID-19. This could include making more use of outdoor space, providing additional temporary structures to enable safe working practices, or extending hours of working. This includes extended hours of construction to ensure that building works are completed quickly.

Some of these changes will require planning permission but we recognise businesses may not have time to wait for planning applications to be determined, given the need to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

The council will be following the approach outlined below, to help businesses to adapt.

Free fast-track planning advice for businesses

We have set up a fast-track planning advice service for businesses. If you are planning to make changes due to COVID-19 that may require planning permission (e.g. changes to the use of your outdoor space or provision of temporary structures), we would ask that you please contact us by email to let us know. We will review your proposals, and will confirm whether they are acceptable in principle.

There is no charge for this service and we will aim to respond to all such requests within 10 working days.

We would be grateful if you could supply the following information:

  • business name, contact details of a named individual

  • a site location plan

  • a block (or layout) plan including the location of any proposed temporary structure, or any outside area that you are planning to use differently

  • a description of any proposed structure, or a description of the changes you are proposing (e.g. increased use of outside space / changes to hours of working/construction, placing of a portacabin on land)

  • a description of how you plan to make any proposed structure safe e.g. wind loading, flame retardancy, anchorage / stability etc

  • details of when any changes started, or when you plan them to start (e.g. when any structure was erected or when do you plan to erect it)

  • photos of the site including any area where a temporary structure will be located;

  • a brief overview of what any structure or outside area will be used for (including the hours it will be used for);


  • importantly please explain why the change to operations is required (related to COVID-19).

Once we have received your information, a planning officer will assess your proposals. We will consider whether planning permission would technically be required, and, if so, whether there are likely to be any significant impacts on: 

  • amenity / noise (e.g. potential impacts on neighbours if an outside venue is used for late-night drinking)

  • highway safety issues (e.g. blocking parking spaces or roads) This will also include accessibility issues in the highway

  • hindrance to service routes for other commercial premises (e.g. preventing deliveries)


As part of our assessment, we will take account of any relevant existing or historic planning permissions or enforcement cases affecting the site.

We will approach the assessment of all proposals in a positive and proactive way, although a positive outcome is not necessarily guaranteed.

As part of this assessment, we may identify limits to any changes you are proposing, such as limiting the times of operation to reduce noise to neighbours. We will always seek to work pragmatically with you to overcome any issues. We will write to you to confirm the outcome of our assessment.

Where proposals have been agreed, it is unlikely that the council will take planning enforcement action against temporary development or changes of use, even where these would technically require planning permission. This pragmatic approach to planning enforcement will apply for six months, and will be reviewed in January 2021.

We do however reserve the right to take enforcement action if significant new information comes to light which indicates that the temporary changes are leading to significant adverse impacts.

Please note that this free service only applies to temporary changes needed to help businesses get up and running during the current COVID-19 recovery period. Our standard charges for pre-application advice will apply for any other planning advice enquiries, such as those involving permanent alterations or new buildings, and home extensions.

At the end of the temporary period, those businesses seeking advice as part of retaining structures or uses on a permanent basis, would not be charged a pre-application fee.

To access our free fast-track planning advice service please submit the information listed above by email to with ‘request for free COVID-19 advice’ in the subject line.

Meeting other requirements

Our fast-track planning advice service only covers planning requirements. There are other matters you will also need to consider, including: 

Building Regulations

Temporary structures may require Building Regulations approval. As part of our advice, we will advise if Buildings Regulations approval may be required, and we will supply details of how to apply where this is needed. Discussions with our Building Control Service are also free.

Alcohol and entertainment licences

Businesses, organisations and individuals who want to sell or supply alcohol must have a licence, and you must make sure any additional public realm space is adequately licensed for the sale of alcohol. In some circumstances, a premise licence for entertainment will be required.

Our planning advice service does not cover licencing requirements. It is possible that you can benefit when the temporary COVID-19 pavement license are introduced by Government at the end of July. This is a streamlined and cheaper route for businesses such as cafes, restaurants and bars to secure a licence to place furniture on the highway. This will support you to operate safely while social distancing measures remain in place. 

Risk assessments

The responsibility to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in line with HSE guidance remains with individual businesses to ensure they can trade safely and comply with the Government’s safe working and social distancing guidelines. There is more information online, see HSE guidance.

Any new structure creates new risks from both its form and function and these must be addressed.

If the structure is large or specially designed it may be regarded as a Temporary Demountable Structure (TDS).

Fire Safety

All premises will have carried out a fire risk assessment. This will need to be reviewed and amended as appropriate to take account of changes implemented as part of your Covid-19 recovery.


Planning applications 

The councils continue to receive and process all planning applications

We will undertake site visits where it is deemed to be necessary and safe to do so.

Building Control

The building control staff (Lewes district) are undertaking site visits on all live cases where it is safe to do so. For updates on building control visits in Eastbourne, please visit the  East Sussex Building Control Partnership website.

Planning Enforcement

All current enforcement cases are being processed. Any new cases will be triaged and site visits undertaken where it is deemed necessary and safe to do so.

Planning Committee and Public Engagement

Following Government advice and the powers issued under the Covid legislation, the Council are undertaking Virtual Planning Committees. This has resulted in some changes to our former processes/practices, see below:

  • Please see revised Public speaking guidelines.

  • The temporary suspension of public meetings at County Hall

  • Provision of paper document on request

  • Additional consultation methods such as virtual exhibitions and telephone conferencing.

Planning Policy

Consultation on Planning Policy documents

The Statement of Community Involvement sets out how the Council will involve the public when Planning Policy documents are prepared. We made some temporary changes to the Statement of Community Involvement.

We made one temporarily change to the Basic Consultation Methods:

  • When the Council is legally obliged to close its offices as part of measures to retain social distance people with limited access to internet can request a paper copy of the planning document. Where possible, this copy will be supplied free of charge. 

To the Additional Consultation Methods we will include temporarily the following two methods:

  • Virtual exhibitions – This is an online exhibition with the option for the public to ask questions and to comment on the proposed planning matters.
  • Telephone conferencing – When the consultation takes place in a period of social distancing special effort will be made to reach out for people with limited access to internet. They can contact planning officers to bring forward their questions or comments in telephone conferences on specific topics. The possibility of this option will be published in the local media, posters or leaflets.