The Coronavirus (Emergency) Act 2020 will establish new powers allowing Councils in England to hold meetings remotely i.e. virtual meetings. The Coronvirus Bill, as it is currently, has passed through the House of Lords and is expected to become law shortly. For planning, this means that key Committee meetings can be held remotely via various online methods therefore allowing the planning system to continue to function as well as possible. Following the approval of that emergency legislation, it is understood that secondary legislation will be needed to bring in the detailed arrangements and this is expected to be published imminently covering matters such as virtual public attendance and the ability to speak to a Committee.
Prior to the emergency legislation, Steve Quartermain, Chief Planner at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote to all local authorities in England encouraging the delegation of Committee decisions, where appropriate and possible. Again, the strong message was to prioritise decision-making to ensure the planning system continues to function. Many local authorities appear to now be reviewing their delegation systems although such changes in themselves may require Committee approval!