Up until a week or so ago if your planning application wasn't approved under delegated powers you would be attending a "Planning Committee" to hear your application being considered and of course you may well be making a presentation to the Elected Members. Taking into account Government advice on avoiding meetings, social distancing and taking responsibilty for minimising risks to be infected Planning Committee's will surely have to be suspended for the time being. Even holding a meeting behind closed doors could be challenging.
Whilst the construction sector will no doubt be impacted and house building will slow for a period the planning system still has to keep functioning. We can't expect the entire system to be put on hold. How geared up are Local Authorities to enable their staff to work from home, is there the IT infrastructure in place to enable this to happen? If further restrictions are imposed will planning staff be able to conduct site inspections? Are statutory consultees also geared up to work from home as likewise visit sites?
This is all before we get the application either approved under delegated powers or to be considered by Commitee. Is the reality going to be more applications being determied under delegated powers? Will Planning Committees be able to consider applications remotely via a conference call? Would that process allow anyone wanting to have their say at the Committee to do so? If extended delegated powers take precedent it would seem that "politics" wouldn't be able to "interfere" with the planning process. The outcome could quite possibly that more applications are approved. Does this revised process open up the opportunity for more judicial reviews?
The more I think about this issue the more questions I have. I am sure we will see some excellent advice coming from Chambers and no doubt will be a subject for debate at forthcoming planning seminars. Sorry webinars.
I posted a blog recently (before this problem escalated) on how media and video can be used in the planning process. More important than ever and quite possibly a means and way to provide information for elected members. This video is one I prepared for a major application approved last year under delegated powers. We sent this to the elected members at the time of the planning submission. I await with interest to see how this unfolds and in the meantime, if you need a video, call me.