Everton south stand
There are several significant applications awaiting a decision in Liverpool, including Everton FC's £300m stadium

Local authorities suspend committee meetings

Chloé Vaughan

Councils across the region continue to halt planning meetings in line with social distancing measures, and are calling for updated advice on whether to decide applications through other means including delegated powers.

Last week, secretary of state for local government Robert Jenrick chaired a call with 300 council leaders where he confirmed the government “will consider bringing forward legislation to to allow council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period.”

The planning white paper, which is set to be published this spring, is expected answer some of the questions currently being asked by local authorities and the property sector about how to navigate planning in this climate.

As it stands, planning applications can be determined by policy officers under delegated powers when no objections have been received. In these cases, planning officers make their own decisions on the application without needing the application to be considered by a planning committee.

Liverpool City Council is currently making decisions on planning applications through delegated powers, and is awaiting the Government’s white paper which is due in spring for further guidance on further planning resolutions. 

Manchester City Council continues to take its meetings on a week by week basis, and will decide which are to go ahead, also dependent on Government advice.

A representative from the council said that the full council meeting is going ahead on Wednesday 25 March with core members only to give them the opportunity to spread out across the council chambers. The executive meeting is also due to take place, but the council stated there will be “inevitable changes to come”.

Other councils are cancelling meetings with further information to be detailed at a later stage on how they will decide on planning applications currently in the pipeline.

This leaves many planning applications in limbo across the North West as it is uncertain when, or even if, they will be decided upon.

Bury Council at first said it would go ahead with its planning committee in a larger room to provide more space for social distancing, but has since decided to postpone its meeting until further notice.

Lancashire Development Update 2020 Adrian Phillips

Adrian Phillips, chief executive of Preston City Council

Meanwhile in Preston, a statement from Adrian Phillips, chief executive of Preston City Council, said: “In light of the national advice regarding COVID19 we’ve taken the decision to cancel the planning committee meeting on Thursday 2 April 2020 to limit the spread of the virus. This was done with the safety and wellbeing of the public as well as our staff and members in mind.

“We are communicating with applicants and will provide more information when we can. Local government across the country is redeploying members of staff to ensure the continued delivery of key services to meet the needs of the community, which has an impact on our ability to deliver business as usual.”

Cheshire East Council has cancelled all meetings up to 1 April, including its strategic planning meeting on Wednesday. A spokesperson from the council said that all meetings will be subject to change and a lot of meetings are going to be suspended but that this will be updated on the council’s website as and when the changes have been made.

Warrington has made changes to some face-to-face services and public meetings in light of the coronavirus. The only meetings to take place until the end of its civic year on 25 May is the council’s cabinet meeting on 6 April, the development and management committee meetings on 1 April and 22 April, and the scrutiny committee and licensing committee if they are required.

The full council meeting today was cancelled and essential business will be deferred to a future meeting or “dealt with in an alternative way”, the council said in a statement posted to its website.

Russ Bowden, Warrington Borough Council March 2020

Cllr Russ Bowden has said Warrington Council must ‘respond appropriately’

Leader of Warrington Council, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “As the outbreak of coronavirus progresses, services will be disrupted for the foreseeable future.

“We are in uncharted territory and must respond appropriately to this developing situation. We will ensure that the necessary meetings proceed either through digital means or by appropriate social distancing.”

Some planning committee meetings have gone ahead, and others are still set to take place, with changes made to reflect government advice on social distancing.

Wirral Council’s planning committee last Thursday went ahead with some changes, included a stripped down agenda, with two schemes decided under delegated powers, and three deferred. A decision on future meetings has yet to be made.

Two housing schemes were approved, including the Sovini Group with Carrol Build’s application for 61 homes designed by Condy Lofthouse Architects on the site of the former Dell Primary School.

The other was Bellway’s reserved matters application for 257 homes on the site of Burton Foods’ biscuit factory off Pasture Road in Moreton.

Bellway Burton Biscuit Factory March 2020

Bellway’s application for almost 260 homes was approved at Wirral’s planning committee last week. The future of other council meetings is still unclear however

Trafford is still to go ahead with its scheduled meetings, however a representative of the council said that this will be updated on a daily basis.

Your Comments

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Come on planning committees get your IT to hold meetings virtually its pretty straight forward.

Members of the public could be invited also!

By TJL

Any excuse ! meanwhile, the rest of us try and keep going !

By Overdue

Government has to step in and give delegated powers for a temporary period to keep the system moving and ensure confidence in the industry. It’s extremely concerning that councils do not appreciate the impact this will have on society and economy. The response from councils has been utterly clueless – the private sector have really shown them up allowing employees to work from home. It’s simply not good enough for councils to down tools and stalled planning applications/decisions will result in millions of job losses in the building/construction industry.

By Mr State the Obvious

Pathetic! Wasting the opportunity to get through the backlog of applications, decisions, advice, etc that hampers the construction industry!
This is the perfect time and opportunity to get on top of this workload and also to up-skill the planning and wider-council teams to be working with technology suitable for the year 2020!

By Anon

A neighbour, who is aCheshire West councillor, said that his meetings were going ahead virtually – so it can be done. He even invited me to watch him in action via their web=-site!!

By Old Hack

Mr State The Obvious and Anon have clearly not read the article.

The article makes it clear that it is central government who have made it illegal for councils to hold virtual planning committee meetings, not councils themselves opting not to use technology. Still, any excuse to bash the public sector hey?

By Read the article

Virtual consultations….it’s 2020 let’s move forward

By Pineapple Chunx

When we do work this out, it’ll give us the opportunity to review how these things work normally. Hopefully it’ll avoid the need to travel to Committee Meetings elsewhere in the country. I regularly have to stay overnight to attend committee for a five-minute hearing.

By Edge