Councils ‘closely monitoring’ coronavirus crisis

Local authorities are looking to Whitehall for a steer on how to manage their operations, including making decisions on new developments. 

For many councils, it is “business as usual”, but that approach could change on a daily or even hourly basis, bringing uncertainty for developers and the rest of the industry, which is hoping for clarity on the planning and consultation process.

Carlisle City Council announced this week that it is cancelling all committee meetings until further notice, while others such as Conwy Council said that some meetings had been postponed but the planning committee meeting on 1 April will at this point in time still go ahead.

Manchester City Council said that its “essential” committee meetings, including planning, economic development and health, are currently going ahead, as well as the full council meeting scheduled for next week.

There will be a “skeleton attendance” at today’s health and wellbeing board today, and other meetings will have limited attendance and be under constant review as the council reacts to national advice, a city council spokesperson said.

Liverpool City Council said that it is “business as usual” this week, but it is awaiting an update about next week’s meetings within the next 48 hours.

Rochdale Council said today council meetings have either been cancelled or scaled back, and that council staff are working from home where possible “to help ensure our workforce capacity is maintained”.

Bury Council is in the process of moving its planning committee meeting into a larger room in the council chambers to allow for more space between people to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. A representative from the council said it is an “evolving situation” and that, at the moment, committees are going ahead, but this could change.

Wyre Council has cancelled all its events for the next 12 weeks, and said “this will be kept under constant review”. Council meetings and committees “will only be held if they are statutory or regulatory”, it added.

Cheshire East Council’s strategic, northern and southern planning committees are continuing as normal, but a spokesperson said the council is “working on a day-by-day basis” to monitor the situation and change things as required. 

The spokesperson said: “This is a complex and fast-evolving situation and Cheshire East Council continues to be guided by the science and advice from Public Health England.

“Business continuity planning is ongoing, complemented by multi-agency meetings with our partners and with central government. Council staff are being encouraged to work from home where possible and in discussion with their line managers.”

The council’s group leaders have received advice “regarding how formal decisions can be made in circumstances in which meetings cannot take place”, the spokesperson added.

“Further work is being done to develop our well-established processes, which enable this to happen. Decisions will be made, over the coming days, as to which meetings do not need to take place, taking into account the latest advice.”

A representative of Preston City Council said it was following the Government’s advice and will “respond accordingly”.

Other regional councils, including Trafford, Bolton, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Warrington and Wirral, have been contacted for comment regarding their approach to development decision making at this time.

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