Council zooms ahead with virtual planning meeting
Councillors made a number of planning decisions in the comfort of their own homes for the first time last night. The Council believes it’s the first authority in Staffordshire to stage a virtual planning committee meeting in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The special meeting – which lasted for almost two hours – enabled the Council to continue making decisions on applications to help developers get ready to start work, where possible, once the movement restrictions are lifted and to remove any uncertainty neighbours may have about development proposals near to them.
It was operated through the Zoom platform with officers providing presentations and eight councillors debating items before voting on them. In addition, up to a dozen members of the public watched the meeting online as a guest.
Cllr. Andrew Fear, chair of the planning committee, said: “I thought the virtual meeting went very well. Zoom was really robust. We could all access the software, and no-one dropped out, so we were able to have a good discussion and a very similar meeting to what we would normally have. This is the next best thing to face to face meetings which just aren’t possible at the moment due to the lockdown and social distancing measures.
“Being able to bring together some members of the committee to make important planning decisions shows that local democracy is still very much in action.”
Leader of the Council, Simon Tagg, added: “This was the first meeting we have held under new government legislation to allow virtual meetings online, with councillors making the decisions instead of officers using emergency powers as provided by the Council’s constitution. It is important that democracy continues at this time and that our residents can still observe it as it happens if they wish. Technologies such as Zoom have enabled us to do this.”
The Council’s Cabinet will be holding their first meeting using the new ‘virtual’ method on Zoom next Wednesday, 22 April.
Last updated 16 April 2020
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