Home > News > Latest Legal Covid-19 Updates

General Updates

  1. The Coronavirus Act 2020 has now passed into law, making sweeping changes to laws in areas such as health and social care, investigatory powers, schools and education, and landlord and tenant law. For those with Westlaw, Daniel Greenberg has provided an extensive analysis. Particular provisions are also picked out in the analysis referred to below.
  2. With regard to government guidance on restrictions – The current guidance remains in force: only go outside for food, health reasons or unavoidable work. This is expected to continue for a “significant period”. The general restrictions on use of premises, movement and gatherings are found in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 350) which came into force at 1pm on 26th March 2020.

Courts and Inquiries

  1. A lot of guidance has been issued by the Courts over the past week or so. This includes guidance from the Administrative Court on making applications for immediate/urgent consideration, guidance from the FTT Property Chamber and Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), and Protocols on remote working. A list (save for the Administrative Court guidance, which is linked to separately), can be found here.
  2. The MOJ and HMCTS have published a network of priority courts which will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure the justice system continues to operate effectively.
  3. 53-57 and Schedules 23-27 Coronavirus Bill 2020 contains temporary modifications to a number of different statutes relating to the use of video and audio technology in court, in both criminal and civil proceedings.
  4. Government guidance has been published on telephone and video hearings during the coronavirus outbreak. The High Court contingency plan can be found here.
  5. A High Court Trial has been streamed on Youtube for the first time. Footage of the  first Supreme Court video hearing can be found here.
  6. HMCTS, the Society for Computers and Law, and the UK LawTech Delivery Panel have launched Remote Courts Worldwide, a collaborative project allowing lawyers from all over the world to share experiences of developing remote alternatives to court.
  7. Members of Chambers are at the forefront of engaging with this Brave New World. Christopher Katkowski QC and Kate Olley appeared on behalf of Manchester City Council in a remotely conducted judicial review hearing. Carine Patry and Leon Glenister, having recently conducted telephone and video hearings, have authored a blog providing guidance, hints and tips. It can be found here and here.

Planning Updates

Inquiries, hearings and local plan examinations

  1. All public inquiries, hearings and site visits are currently suspended. Measures to allow virtual planning appeals hearings and inquiries are currently being considered by PINS, which is looking for pilot cases to test the technology. PINS latest Guidance on this was provided on 25th March 2020.
  2. With regard to Local Plan Examinations, a helpful Planning Advisory Service (PAS) Q&A segment has addressed some issues regarding how to comply with Statements of Community Involvement.
  3. The Planning and Environment Bar Association is working closely with PINS to try and get portions of the planning system up and running as quickly as possible. A submission from Christopher Katkowski QC, Charles Banner QC, Kate Olley, Matthew Fraser and Matthew Henderson has garnered national attention and been endorsed by Sir Lynton Crosby.

LPA Planning decisions

  1. Carrying out any meetings or face to face consultation exercises in relation to planning applications or emerging Local Plans is currently not possible. S. 78 Coronavirus Act 2020, in force from 25th March 2020, allows for regulations which would authorise virtual committee meetings
  2. On the 24th March the latest quarterly Planning Update Newsletter was sent to Chief Planning Officers. This is the last one from Steve Quartermain before his retirement from the position of the Government’s Chief Planner at the end of this month. This included some usual updates but also advice to LPAs on coronavirus issues. PAS/LGA provide a useful set of resources for planners thinking about how to change services in response to the pandemic: PAS/LGA; https://local.gov.uk/; and https://www.gov.uk/guidance.
  3. Councils are responding in a variety of ways, as public meetings of any number are not possible under Reg 7 Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. Some, such as Luton Borough Council, are using part-virtual planning committee meeting to allow hospital expansion plans. Others are approving delegated powers granting officers emergency decision making powers.


  1. On 13 March 2020, Robert Jenrick made a written ministerial statement (WMS) to the House of Commons and the House of Lords about the discretionary nature of taking enforcement action. This stated that planning authorities should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting essential deliveries (e.g. of food). It can be found here.

Use of restaurants and pubs for takeaways

  1. The use of restaurants and pubs for take away food service is now provided for by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 (2020 No. 330) which came into force on 24th March 2020. Note, however, that as currently drafted Art 3(4) means the PD Right does not override any condition on any permission relied upon precluding such use.

Public Law, Health & Social Care Update

  1. The Coronavirus Act 2020 has introduced widespread changes to the public law landscape

Health and Social Care

  1. Sched 21. Has introduced powers relating to potentially infections persons. Tim Buley QC and Graham Denholm provided an analysis of this issue while it was at bill stage.
  2. Fiona Scolding QC, Leon Glenister and Yaaser Vanderman have authored a blog looking at potential legal challenges to the Government’s plans for calculating exam grades for those GCSE and A-level exams that have been cancelled.

State Aid and Public Procurement

  1. New guidance on state aid has been issued by the European Commission. James Neill and Nick Grant have authored a blog post on the implications of coronavirus for current and future procurement competitions.

 Property Update

  1. MHCLG has recently published guidance on a package of measures to support tenants and landlords during the COVID-19 crisis.
  2. The passage of the Coronavirus Act 2020 has made changes to the statutory notices and notice periods required to begin possession proceedings in residential tenancies, and prevented any right of re-entry or forfeiture for non-payment of rent being enforced until 30 June 2020 for commercial properties. New Forms 3 and Form 6A, can be found here. See here for an analysis by Members of Chambers, and here for the Nearly Legal blog post discussing of some of the drafting problems.
  3. The Master of the Rolls has adjourned all Part 55 proceedings for a period of 90 days, with the introduction of the New Practice Direction 51Z to Stay Possession Proceedings.
  4. A team of representatives from the Law Society, Society of Licenced Conveyancers, Conveyancing association, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and Bold Legal Group have published a joint advice note and model agreement for the varying of existing sale and purchase contracts, in response to the Government’s advice urging home buyers and renters to delay move-in dates. Nic Taggart took an active role in the drafting of these documents.
  5. See here for a discussion, again on Nearly Legal of the interaction between Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020 and homelessness.

Articles and Commentary

  1. Tim Morshead QC: The law and COVID-19

 Upcoming web events

  1. 1 April 2020: Webinar– Planning in the COVID-19 Crisis


Issue Authors: Stephen Morgan, Nick Grant, Alex Shattock

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