More than 400 schemes had been due to see permissions expire next week

The government will extend planning permissions that are due to expire during lockdown, ministers confirmed yesterday in a move to support the industry’s recovery.

The decision, which follows weeks of lobbying by developers and planners, will also be welcomed by architects keen to get projects on site.

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Developers had been worried that previously consented schemes would lapse in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic

A statement from the housing ministry said that sites with consent that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year will now see their consent extended to 1 April, 2021.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the change would be brought in alongside previously trailed measures to speed up the planning appeals process.

“New laws will enable us to speed up the pace of planning appeals and save hundreds of construction sites from being cancelled before they have a chance to get spades in the ground, helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many others,” he said.

“Taken together, these measures will help to keep workers safe and our economy moving as we work together to bounce back from the pandemic.”

The announcement came as the ministry published a set of one-off figures showing that between the date lockdown was announced on 23 March and the end of June, permission for 430 residential schemes was set to expire.

The figures, based on data from Glenigan, show that the permissions were for schemes scheduled to deliver 24,800 homes. The majority of these are large-scale schemes by mass housebuilders who typically do not appoint external architects.

Both local authority and developer groups have been lobbying for the government to extend planning permissions in England to stop schemes delayed due to covid restrictions from suffering the delay and expense of a new planning application. The Scottish government introduced a similar measure before parliament was closed before lockdown, but the UK government has until now been silent on whether it expects to do the same in England.

The ministry did not say how it will enact the change, but lawyers have previously argued that extending the duration of planning permissions, which have a three-year standard length, will require primary legislation.

The announcement is likely to come in advance of a more wide-ranging reform of the planning system, expected next month. Jenrick said earlier this month that it was time to rethink the planning system from “first principles”, amid speculation of a massive expansion in permitted development and a move towards a US-style ‘zonal’ planning system.