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Planning Committee launches virtual meetings

Members of the public will be invited to share their views on a number of local planning applications when the Guildford Borough Council Planning Committee launches its first ever online meeting on Wednesday 20 May at 7pm.

Following the government's introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020, to allow virtual council meetings, this first meeting of the Planning Committee will discuss a small number of householder and minor planning applications. Where members of the public are able to register to speak in support or against an application, they will be able to speak at the virtual meeting which is being hosted on Microsoft's group conferencing programme Teams.

Cllr Jan Harwood, Lead Councillor for Planning, Regeneration and Housing Delivery, says: "It is vital that council business is able to continue as much as possible, and whilst we prioritise looking after our most vulnerable residents and providing key services, we also need to continue to make decisions in a democratic way, and the change in the law enables us to do that using the technology available to us.

"Councils must be resilient and forward-thinking in order to adapt to new challenges, and to embrace new ways of working. Our Future Guildford Transformation Programme brought new IT systems to the Council which now allow us to hold virtual meetings and ensure our democratic response to coronavirus is the best it can be."

Cllr Marsha Moseley, Chair of the Planning Committee, says: "Public participation in Planning Committee meetings is a very important part of the process, and we recognise that they are always some of the best-attended meetings in the council diary. This reflects the fact that planning, development and housing are key priorities for the Council. We will continue to ensure that residents are able to attend virtual meetings and, where applicable, be involved in our planning decisions."

Members of the public will be invited to register to speak on minor applications which have attracted 20 or more objections, or household applications with ten or more objections. Invitations will be sent to people who have already submitted an objection, with registration open on a first come first served basis from midday on Tuesday 12 May until midday on Tuesday 19 May. A maximum of four people can speak on each application, two in favour and two against, with details of how to participate sent once registration is complete.

Subsequent virtual meetings hope to deal with larger planning applications, including those involving 10 dwellings or more or covering 1,000sq metres or more, but only in cases where such applications:

  • Have attracted fewer than 20 letters contrary to officer recommendation and have been referred to the committee by a ward councillor for valid planning reasons following the seven-day notification process;
  • Have been submitted by the Council and therefore need to be considered by the Planning Committee for reasons of openness and transparency. These applications would still need to have attracted fewer than 20 letters contrary to officer recommendation;
  • Should in the opinion of officers be considered by the Planning Committee rather than by delegated powers.

Where a councillor requests a site visit before the Committee considers a planning application, the application shall normally be deferred until such time as the current coronavirus lockdown is lifted.  But, if the councillor is happy to waive their request, the application can be referred to the Committee but additional photographs and information can be provided as part of the officer presentation at the meeting.

The Council's Executive will meet on Tuesday 21 April at 7pm, the audio of which will be broadcast live through the Council's webcast channel.

Published on Monday 20 April.