Coronavirus; Democratic Planning

Thank you for contacting me about the planning process during the coronavirus outbreak.

You make a number of important points about transparency. I believe that a planning system that is based on a legal framework and clear consultation with local residents is at the heart of responsible development. This is particularly relevant when normal working practices are disrupted, as has happened with the coronavirus outbreak.

The majority of planning decisions are made by planning officers. Planning committee meetings are held to decide a smaller number of cases. These meetings can now be held virtually.

The Government has emphasised that local planning authorities should seek to use all options available to them to facilitate decision-making. It has also explained that local authorities should ensure public participation in the planning process is maintained during the outbreak. My ministerial colleagues are working with the Planning Advisory Service to provide further information on how this can be achieved.

Amendments to existing regulations will temporarily supplement publicity requirements to put up site notice, issue neighbour notification letters and place newspaper advertisements. This will give local authorities more flexibility about the best way to publicise planning applications, including considering the use of social media and other online services.

I appreciate that you would like further detail and have passed on your comments to my ministerial colleague. Local authorities should continue to focus on decision-making during these difficult times. I believe that clear and timely decisions provide certainty for local people and benefit the local economy.