Home > News > Latest Legal Covid-19 Updates

General update

  1. We have all by now become very acquainted with the contents of our living rooms, but sadly existing Covid-19 guidance remains in force, and it seems almost certain that the “lockdown” period will be extended for many weeks. From everyone at Landmark Chambers we wish you a very safe holiday period indoors.
  2. Of particular note this week, Holgate J has asked for those involved in the Planning Court to bear in mind the following “top tips” for remote hearings (which it seems to us are sensible suggestions in any court at the moment):
    1. “To help remote hearings go smoothly and not take up more time than normal, the judges need to be able to make best use of pre-reading time (typically on the Monday of the week in which the hearing takes place). For that we would welcome succinct skeletons cross-referenced to key passages in the bundle and accompanied by an agreed, focused list of essential reading (eg. pages and paras).
    2. Bundles need to be limited to material which really is essential for the legal argument on both sides. By way of example, we do not normally need to be given the whole of the NPPF, or a development plan, or (where relevant) proofs of evidence or closing submissions at an inquiry. The inclusion of peripheral material make navigability more difficult. The requirement in the Protocol for a core bundle is crucial. In many cases a really well-chosen, agreed core bundle (or what Robert Carnwath once called a micro bundle) may be all that is really needed.
    3. Bundles of authorities should be confined to essential material and need not duplicate decisions in the ICLR casebook.
    4. It is essential that a bundle has a good index, a single set of numerical, continuous pagination and hyperlinks. Sophisticated pagination does not work.
    5. If parties follow the protocols this will also help judges when they come to prepare reserved judgments.
    6. The need for the court to make best use of its resources in the interests of all users is now all the more critical. Parties and their advisers are expected to keep under the review the merits of their cases and grounds of challenge. Points which do not have worthwhile merit really should be abandoned as far in advance of the hearing as possible and the time estimate reduced if appropriate. If a Defendant considers that there should be a submission to judgment then the other parties and the court should be notified at the earliest opportunity. Co-Defendants and Interested Parties should then quickly indicate whether they consider that the decision should nonetheless be defended. A claimant who wishes to withdraw a claim should likewise do so well in advance of the hearing. If this good practice (which is already set out in the Administrative Court Guide) is followed, then it is more likely that the court will be able to redeploy judicial resources to other cases and avoid waiting times increasing unduly. If there is a dispute on costs which the parties cannot resolve, then generally that may be decided by the court on brief paper submissions applying well-established principles.”

Courts and Inquiries

  1. HMCTS continues to list its daily operational summary.
  2. The Master of the Rolls and Lord Chancellor have signed a further coronavirus practice direction, Practice Direction 51ZA (PD), principally in relation to the extension of time limits during the Coronavirus pandemic. The new practice direction:
    1. Allows the parties to agree an extension up to 56 days without formally notifying the court (rather than the current 28 days), so long as that does not put a hearing date at risk;
    2. Any extension of more than 56 days needs to be agreed by the court;
    3. The court is required to take into account the impact of the pandemic in considering such applications, as well as applications for adjournment and relief from sanction;
    4. The PD also clarifies the audio and video hearing PD 51Y (the 116th PD Update) by making clear that a person seeking permission to listen to or view a recording of a hearing may do so by request and is not required to make a formal application under the CPR.
  3. Amendments have also been made to PD 32. It is now a requirement that witness statement should state “the process by which it has been prepared, for example, face-to-face, over the telephone, and/or through an interpreter” and the circumstances in which the statement was prepared.
  4. The Civil Courts have published their listing priorities for the County Court. Priority 1 work, i.e. “work that must be done”, includes injunctions with a “real time element” such as interference with property; applications to stay the enforcement of possession orders; homelessness applications; and applications in cases listed for trial in the next three months.

Planning and Environment Update

 Planning

  1. New emergency development permitted development rights are in force as of 10.00am today. The Explanatory Memorandum notes:

“The instrument amends the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (“the General Permitted Development Order”) to introduce a new permitted development right to allow local authorities and health service bodies to carry out development, both works and change of use, of facilities required in undertaking their roles to respond to the spread of coronavirus, without a requirement to submit a planning application.”

  1. A London council has held what is likely to be England’s first “fully virtual” planning committee meeting.
  2. The new PPG on neighbourhood plans has been published. Key changes are as follows:

Referendums: All neighbourhood planning referendums that have been recently cancelled, or are scheduled to take place, between 16 March 2020 and 5 May 2021 are postponed in line with the Local Government and Police and Crime Commissioner (Coronavirus) (Postponement of Elections and Referendums) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 until 6 May 2021.

Decision-making: Where the local planning authority has issued a decision statement (as set out under Regulation 25 of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012) detailing its intention to send a neighbourhood plan to referendum, that plan can be given significant weight in decision-making, so far as the plan is material to the application.

Examinations: The general rule remains that examinations should be conducted by written representations. If an examiner considers that oral representations are necessary, these should not take place in person. Where feasible, oral representations may still take place using video conferencing or other suitable technologies.

Public consultation: Neighbourhood planning groups or local planning authorities intending to undertake public consultation and notification (as set out under Regulation 14 and Regulation 16 respectively of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012) should consider the government’s current guidance on staying at home and away from others or any superseding guidance.

  1. The Planning advisory service has published a collection of helpful Covid-19 guidance for planners.
  2. The consultation period on Freeports has been extended from 20th April (2020) to 11.45pm on 13 July in light of Covid-19.

Environment

  1. On the environment front there is a good new section on the House of Commons library website on Support for low carbon power, which deals with the position on the contract for difference: the Government’s primary mechanism for supporting new low carbon power infrastructure.
  2. Finally, on the subject of the environment, the BBC has reported that mass tree planting in the UK may do more harm than good: particularly if it is carried out on peat bogs, as it interferes with the peat’s natural ability to store vast quantities carbon dioxide.

Public Law, Health & Social Care Update

  1. Samantha Broadfoot QC discusses Ofqual’s grading scheme proposals for GCSE’s and A-Levels, published on 3 April 2020
  2. The Home Office has published updated guidance for visa applicants affected by travel restrictions associated with coronavirus. The guidance sets out various concessions, including the following:
    1. Migrants in the UK whose visa expires between 24 January and 31 May 2020 but who cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus will have their visas extended till 31 May 2020. To benefit from this an application must be made using an online form.
    2. Those applying to stay in the UK long-term can apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May 2020 (where they would normally need to apply for a visa from their home country).
    3. Concessions are made for those on Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, whose business has been disrupted.
    4. Doctors, nurses or paramedics working for the NHS (as well as their family members) will have their visas extended automatically by one year if their visa is due to expire before 1 October 2020. No application needs to be made.
    5. There is no longer a limit on the number of hours that certain migrants can work/volunteer each week if they work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse or paramedic.
  3. The Home Office has also published advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 visa sponsors in the UK who are sponsoring those affected by coronavirus
  4. The Government has announced that risk-assessed prisoners who are within two months of their release date will be released from prison on temporary license.

Property Update

  1. DCMS have published Covid-19 guidance for telecommunications infrastructure in in England. The Guidance reaffirms the paramount importance of maintaining the network and provides that landowners and occupiers should continue to meet their obligations under agreements with telecoms providers.
  2. In Re One Blackfriars Ltd [2020] EWHC 845 (Ch) John Kimbell QC, sitting as a deputy, refused an application to adjourn the 5-week trial of £250 million claim against administrators and instructed the parties to continue to prepare for trial and explore the technological options available to facilitate a remote trial. The judgement contains a useful review of the provisions allowing for remote hearings in the high court.

Seminars and events

  1. We have a number of webinars in the pipeline, but in this bulletin we would draw your attention to our free webinar on 15 April 2020A comprehensive guide to the latest Planning Law, Practice and Policy – Part one. Spaces are limited so signing up is essential.

 

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