Ministry defensive on virtual meetings

8 May: The Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the ministry responsible for the planning system in England) has responded to the letter from Just Space and a number of bigger and national networks in which we had defended transparent and democratic features of the planning system and called for government action.

The ministry’s reply is mainly defensive, arguing that their priority has been to keep the planning system functioning and to give local authorities the flexibility to innovate in how they do that. [The implication seems to be that it’s up to the council how they proceed; complain to them if you are unhappy.]

On the more positive side, though, the letter does say that the government expects councils “…to provide for full participation in the planning system by the public and the press…”

Our letter had been a joint one with the Campaign to Protect Rural England, CPRE London, Friends of the Earth, London Forum of Civic & Amenity Societies, and the Town and Country Planning Association (see previous post). The ministry reply in full is here MHLG Response 20200506

Just Space is now in discussion with the other organisations about further steps to be taken. Meanwhile we do need member organisations in London to keep a close watch on how their councils are behaving during the lockdown. Are decisions being made by smaller groups of councillors or delegated to officers to an increased degree? Is public access as good as before? How are councils handling consultations on local plans and other documents, as well as applications for permission? How are councils protecting the rights of those who cannot access online systems?

Watch this space and follow us on twitter at @JustSpace7.

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