I wish to update the House on the urgent matter of enabling retailers of food, sanitary and other essential items to increase the frequency of deliveries to their stores to support the response to Covid-19.
Many supermarkets, food retailers and distribution centres in England are subject to controls which restrict the time and number of deliveries from lorries and other delivery vehicles, particularly at night. These include planning conditions, which are necessary to making the development acceptable to local residents who might otherwise suffer from traffic, noise and other local amenity issues as a result of these deliveries.
Given the exceptional challenges facing the UK from the coronavirus however, it is vital that deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential products over the coming weeks can be made as quickly and safely as possible, minimising disruption to the supply chains on which our communities depend. The likely pressures on driver capacity mean additional flexibility is needed so that retailers can accept deliveries throughout the day and night where necessary.
The National Planning Policy Framework already emphasises that planning enforcement is a discretionary activity, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.
The purpose of this Written Ministerial Statement, which comes into effect immediately, is to make clear that as a matter of urgency local planning authorities should take a positive approach to their engagement with food retailers and distributors, as well as the freight industry, to ensure planning controls are not a barrier to food delivery over the period of disruption caused by the coronavirus.
Given the current situation local planning authorities should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting deliveries of food and other essential deliveries during this period, having regard to their legal obligations.
The Government recognises that the increased frequency of deliveries, particularly at night, could have a temporary impact on local residents. However, this needs to be balanced by the significant public interest in ensuring local residents have continued access to food, sanitary and other essential goods in their local shops. The retail and logistics sectors have also worked to minimise impacts on residents over recent years through Quiet Deliveries and the Government expects that such good practice continues. The Government will review the need for the flexibility outlined in this statement after the pressure from the coronavirus has reduced, and it is the intention to withdraw it once the immediate urgency has subsided.
This Written Ministerial Statement only covers England. We are working closely with the devolved administrations to consider similar arrangements.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords