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Service Update

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Please be aware, in view of advice received from Public Health England (PHE) regarding the current spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), that Dover District Council has instituted a series of measures to help reduce the spread of the virus and safeguard staff and members of the public with whom they might normally come into contact with. As a consequence, all staff are now working from home. Site visits are severely restricted with no unannounced visits taking place. Face-to-face meetings are also temporally suspended. The information below provides advice/guidance about the measures that will be followed in the current circumstances.

In practice staff will still need to attend sites where this is essential to properly assess the application - Depending on the nature of the development an arranged visit might not be needed and options will be explored on a case by case basis for ‘virtual’ site visits using tools such as Google Street view.

We are seeking to operate as flexibly as we can but with full regard to the wellbeing of our staff and others and in particular being cognisant of any health concerns and/or issues that people are dealing which might place limits on their ability to leave home and work beyond that environment. For this reason, when a site visit is required, it might be necessary to postpone it until circumstances permit, which may not be until advice from Public Health England relaxes the restrictions on leaving home. The case officer will advise you if this is the case. Where a site visit can be accommodated, then this will only take place subject to the following safeguards: Written confirmation will need to be provided that no-one at the property (if residential) is self-isolating, updated up to the day of the site visit if necessary - If they are self-isolating then the visit will be postponed until written confirmation is received that no-one in residence is self-isolating;  the site visit must be unaccompanied (no meet or greet or any interaction with the case officer); and the case officer won’t need to access a residential dwelling and/or any other building (in which people normally reside/work) to be able to properly conduct the visit and assess the proposal. Where these criteria cannot be satisfied, the site visit will need to be postponed.  

Where a meeting is required to discuss the application this will be held remotely, for example by telephone conferencing, Microsoft Teams or Skype. Please be aware that with all case officers working from home they may need to conduct these meetings from there.

It’s possible that the operation of these measures and the impact of COVID-19 generally will put pressure on the time periods for determining planning applications. Due to the current circumstances, some of those we need to consult on certain applications (statutory consultees) have already indicated that their responses might be delayed. In addition to impacting our regular processes, the current health emergency might also impact our staff resource.

While we will still aim to process an application within the normal determination period, where delays do occur and in line with current arrangements, we will contact applicants/agents to seek agreement for a formal extension of time to the period for determining the application.

We hope you understand the need for these measures at this time which are to ensure that any submitted application is processed safely, in accordance with PHE guidelines and the other requirements set out here. The aim is to ensure the continued delivery of the Council service but in a manner that adheres fully to the public health advice at this time.

We continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of our service generally and will provide any relevant updates on the Council’s planning webpages.

Advice from the Environment Agency

Following the latest Government guidance our planning teams will move to home working this week. This is not going to be without difficulties as our organisation is still in recovery following the recent floods. There are also ongoing issues with our IT which will delay our response times. We pride ourselves on a high level of service but may not be able to guarantee it at this time.

We will endeavour to respond to requests as quickly as we can with the resources we have but please be mindful we are working in exceptional circumstances at the moment.

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