Given that most of us have access to electronic means of communication at all times of day and night there is perhaps a risk of forgetting that planning legislation still recognises ‘business hours’. A planning authority in Sussex was reminded of this when an inspector dealing with an appeal relating to an agricultural barn found that its decision at 17:45 requiring prior approval was not issued “within the prescribed 28 day deadline, having regard to normal business hours” (DCS Number 400-016-112).
The inspector recorded that there is a 28 day determination period running from the date of the receipt of the application for the authority to determine whether prior approval is required or not. Paragraph 2(7) of Schedule 1 to the Town and Country Planning (Electronic Communications) (England) Order 2003 and Article 2(9) of the GPDO are clear, he noted, that communications received outside of normal business hours shall be taken to have been received the next working day. Furthermore, section 336(4A) of the 1990 Act indicates that an electronic communication, used for the purposes of giving a notice, shall be taken to have been received the following day if received outside of that person’s business hours.
The appellant’s agent indicated that his normal business hours were up to 1730 hours during the working week. The planning authority’s point that the agent’s business hours were not published on the company website or other media received little sympathy from the inspector. “….this merely emphasises the need to check them further if such an important notice was required to be sent within a prescribed deadline”, he ruled.
The following DCP section is relevant: 4.3425