Planning applications during the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency
As we are all adapting to the rapidly developing situation regarding COVID-19, I wanted to advise you of our current business continuity arrangements for managing planning applications.
Currently staffing numbers are at a level where we can provide a full service, but this will need to be kept under review as and when some of our officers and councillors may have to self-isolate. 99% of our processes are paper-less and so can be carried out remotely, and if you are making an application you can help us continue to deliver the service by avoiding paper submissions. Any paper submissions cannot be prioritised or actioned quickly in the current circumstances.
If staffing numbers are affected in the coming weeks, either because individuals need to self-isolate or are required to support other critical front-line service delivery across the council, we may need to introduce new procedures, including delaying the determination of applications for a time. You may wish to consider whether, if your application is not time-critical, you might want to delay submission during the present period. New arrangements may need to be put in place for applications due to be considered by a planning committee, and we will advise on this in due course. Site visits by officers will be carried out on a risk assessed basis and following the principle of minimising contact, and officers will be the final judge in whether a site visit takes place. If you are an applicant you can help us by positively responding to any requests for additional photographs of sites if that can help the assessment of proposals. In general, officers have been advised to minimise face to face contact and to primarily engage via e-mail.
Thank you for your support whilst we deliver our services in these challenging times
Mrs Marie Bath, Planning Manager
Planning committees (Development Management, Strategic Sites Delivery and Spatial Planning Committee} meetings will recommence at the end of May and will be held as virtual meetings.
The first meeting will be the Development Management Committee meeting on the 28 May, and we will run two further DM Committee meetings on the 11 and 25 June.
The Spatial Planning Committee will meet on the 29 June.
After that the committees will then run in their normal schedule as set out in the Civic Calendar on our website.
These meetings will be held using Microsoft Teams and will also be webcast.
Unfortunately for these first few meetings at least, we will not be able to host public speaking during the meetings. We will however accept written statements from the public (and parish councils) up to 24 hours before the start time of the committee meeting. Statements received by this time will be sent to all committee members and will be taken into account in the assessment of the application. Statements received after the deadline may not be taken into account. Statements should be submitted to email@example.com
South Gloucestershire ward members who have submitted a statement will also be able to join the committee meeting and speak to the committee at the start of the item they are interested in, before the committee goes on to consider the application.
We are working to ensure that the six principles advocated by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Friends of the Earth (FoE) to safeguard the role of local communities in the planning process are protected:
No planning application normally decided by a committee should be decided using delegated or executive powers
Virtual meetings should be reliably live-streamed on video, with speaking rights for objectors and third party representatives
Councils should produce a report setting out how they will follow best practice for the involvement of communities
Councils should create and promote a website page giving information on upcoming meetings and consultations and how to take part
Councils should extend deadlines for the determination of planning applications and responding to consultations
Site visits should be restored as soon as they can be conducted safely
Any votes on estate regeneration should be put on hold until there is a reliable, democratic way to vote
In addition to re-starting planning committee meetings, we are looking to see if we can enable case officer site visits to be carried out. This will be in those limited cases where a visit is considered essential to enable the assessment of the application and only if we are satisfied they can be carried out safely and in accordance with social distancing requirements. Social distancing requirements mean that it will still not be possible to re-start planning committee site visits.