Virtual Planning Committee to meet next week

Posted on 16 April 2020

Ashford Borough Council will be holding its first fully virtual meeting on Wednesday 22 April. The Planning Committee meeting will take place at 7pm to consider two applications related to Newtown Railway Works, (19/01476/AS and 19/01694/AS).

The council is following recent Government guidance and new national regulations which allows important decisions to continue to be taken at virtual meetings during the current coronavirus crisis.

The Government has urged local councils to use the new procedures to ensure decisions of importance to communities and the economy, including planning decisions, continue to be made.

The Planning Committee meeting will take place on April 22, at 7pm to consider two applications related to Newtown Railway Works.

While this is a first for Ashford, other councils have already been holding virtual meetings (for example the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea held their first virtual planning committee on 9 April).

The detailed procedures for the meeting are currently being finalised and will be publicised in advance of the meeting and although the public will not be able to physically attend the meeting in the conventional way the virtual proceedings will be held using Microsoft Teams Live Event and the public will be able to hear the meeting live via our website.

Public consultations on planning applications will continue to take place in the usual way.

CGI of the proposed Newtown Works development in Ashford
The proposed Newtown Works development

At the beginning of April local authorities in England were handed new powers to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology.

The Government temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic. This will enable councils to make effective and transparent decisions on the delivery of services for residents and ensure that local democracy continues to thrive.

Meetings will remain accessible whilst ensuring that councillors, staff and the wider public are able to follow government advice by staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus to protect the NHS and save lives.

The change applies to all local authorities in England and covers all categories of public meetings including annual meetings, cabinet and committee meetings. Public meetings must still be made accessible to the public but it will be up to each council to decide how they conduct the meetings and how voting procedures work.