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07th April 2020

Virtual planning committees – New regulations increase flexibility of local authority meetings

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On the 2nd April the Government issued the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 which came into force on 4 April. The key provisions of the Regulations include:

  • They apply to the following local authorities: county councils, district councils, combined authorities, parish councils, joint committees constituted to be a local planning authority, fire and rescue authorities and national park authorities.
  • They apply only to meetings that are required to be held, or held, before 7 May 2021;
  • They will enable local authorities to hold meetings remotely including by (but not limited to) telephone conferencing, video conferencing, live webcast, and live interactive streaming;
  • They apply to meetings of a local authority, an executive of a local authority, a joint committee of two or more local authorities, and a committee or sub-committee of any of those bodies. This includes planning committee meetings;
  • They allow local authorities to make standing orders and rules governing the meeting for remote attendance at meetings so as to enable public and press access through remote means and website access;
  • A member in remote attendance must satisfy the condition that the member is able at that time:
  • (a) to hear, and where practicable see, and be so heard and, where practicable, be seen by, the other members in attendance,
  • (b) to hear, and where practicable see, and be so heard and, where practicable, be seen by, any members of the public entitled to attend the meeting in order to exercise a right to speak at the meeting, and
  • (c) to be so heard and, where practicable, be seen by any other members of the public attending the meeting; and
  • They remove the requirement for local authorities to hold annual meetings.

Commentary:- While these new Regulations enable local authorities to hold committee meetings with remote attendances for members and the public, the question will be whether authorities have the ready technical capabilities and resources to implement such arrangements. If they do not then many authorities may not see the value in such expenditure for what currently is only a short term 13 month measure.

For more information please contact Brendon Lee on 01223 532757 or click here to email Brendon.