• Development Intelligence

Coronavirus planning committees

Local elections delayed. Officers redeployed to delivering Coronavirus impact support. Local authorities mobilising for medical/food deliveries for the most vulnerable. Councils roped into largescale local business support. The triviality of determining planning applications each week inevitably has faded down to a second order issue, despite its statutory duty status.

The immediate reaction of many LPAs has been to stop everything, cancelling committees a week ahead at a time. Of course, that way lies the madness of an enormous backlog. So much so that MHCLG’s soon to retire Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain, has rushed out a letter to all LA chief planning officers telling them to keep at it, be imaginative and flexible, don’t stop.

From the DI team’s perspective, different councils are doing different things but broadly they fall into four camps:

  1. The ‘cancel all meetings until further notice’ brigade.

  2. The ‘waiting for more government help/advice/support’ crowd.

  3. The ‘we’ll do it remotely but don’t actually know how that’s going to work’ group.

  4. The ‘just cracking on as we are but washing our hands a lot’ bunch (a waning cohort as this week come to an end).

And in reality, different councils are sliding up and down this hierarchy on a daily basis.

Whilst we in the private sector are all on Teams and Zoom, it’s going to take time for the slow wheels of local government to get their heads around remote planning committee decision-making.

Commiserations if you were meant to be at committee in April. May might look a little brighter.

We have been rolling out our ‘virtual consultation’ toolkit on several live client projects already. If you would like to know more, please get in touch

Also, we have been asked by several clients to give a political update webinar for their teams to which they can log onto remotely. If you feel this could be useful for your team, please get in touch