I wish to update the House on the measures the Government are taking to ensure the availability of food, sanitary and other essential goods.
The food sector is facing a new, exceptional challenge resulting from the acute shortage of HGV drivers across the distribution network. This is resulting in missed deliveries of food and other essential goods and has the potential to lead to significant shortages. The Government want to respond to this proactively by ensuring the industry has the tools available to effectively respond to these pressures to minimise any disruption to the public.
My colleague the Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), introduced measures on 12 July 2021 aimed at proactively addressing this issue, through the temporary relaxation of HGV driving time regulations. I wish to complement these measures by making this written ministerial statement about the enforcement of planning conditions relating to delivery hours to retailers of food, sanitary and other essential goods. This will allow for both measures to work in tandem, providing the industry with much-needed logistical flexibility. We believe these measures will provide supermarkets, other retailers of food and essential goods and their suppliers with increased flexibility over deliveries to ensure a consistent supply of essential goods.
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 make the development acceptable to local residents who might otherwise suffer from traffic, noise and other local amenity issues as a result of these deliveries.
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 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 deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential goods.
Local planning authorities should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential goods during this period, having regard to their legal obligations. The Government recognise that it may be necessary for action to be taken in relation to the impacts on neighbours of sustained disturbance due to deliveries outside of conditioned hours, particularly where this affects sleep. In this case a local planning authority should consider any efforts made by retailers to manage and mitigate such disturbance, taking into account the degree and longevity of amenity impacts.
On 13 March 2020, I made a similar statement to the house in response to the covid-19 pandemic. We kept this under review and extended the provisions with additional statements as necessary. This statement will replace all my previous statements on the matter.
This written ministerial statement only covers England and will expire on 31 January 2022, giving direction to the industry and local planning authorities over the next six months. We will keep the need for this statement under review.