News: 10 April 2020Together Let's Find A Way

Over the past two weeks we've been busy working out ways to find a way through Covid-19 for our staff, clients and the sector as a whole.

You may have read in our recent email, ultimately we aim to drive positive response to this crisis, one that will enhance our environment and resilience for the future, ensuring housing, construction and infrastructure remains at the forefront of the government’s agenda, while having a positive impact on our lives and economy.

All of our teams are working and we have had some great successes including gaining planning approvals and virtual design consultations and meetings with clients, local planning authorities, MHCLG and we have fully stepped up our Public Engagement offer to provide virtual solutions.

Our teams have also been gathering behind #letsfindaway on social media (especially LinkedIn), showcasing examples of how we and others are finding a way, sharing and celebrating proactive ideas and alternatives which are enabling the industry to continue through the pandemic. In addition, we have been working closely with the British Property Federation, Local Authorities and Government Departments, clients and other consultants to contribute our thinking on behalf of the industry, and drive and facilitate change in approach, where needed.

Locally, our teams have been researching how Local Planning Authorities are responding and operating - are council/committee meetings going ahead? Are teams working virtually? Are applications being registered? (See a list of regional contacts below). Overall the picture is good, with many local authorities functioning, delays are univitable, but we must see this as an opportunity that could perhaps have a impact on how the planning process works going forward, with positive outcomes for all - could this be the starting point of the planning system evolving for the good? Read, Planning Associate, Jane Piper's thoughts, 'Will necessity be the mother of invention for the planning industry?'

Interested in finding out how your Local Planning Authority is operating, get in touch with our team:

North West - Greg Dickson, Planning Director 

E: greg.dickson@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 0161 817 4905

"Our findings over recent weeks prove that most authority officers remain contactable by telephone or via virtual meetings. It is positive to see that officers have ensured that they remain contactable, with many desk phones diverted to mobiles and where this isn’t possible authorities are also using a combination of Microsoft Teams or Skype for calls and meetings.

In terms of Planning Committee, it seems that most authorities are looking proactively to go ahead with meetings in May and those diarised thereafter. However, it is not yet clear what form these meetings will take. This is a matter that we hope will be clarified in the weeks ahead.

We are also aware that a number of authorities are facing challenges around the display of site notices and posting of neighbour notification letters. The majority of post rooms within Council buildings have shut down, with remaining resources being diverted towards sending correspondence relevant to the COVID-19 crisis. Positively, we are aware that the Council are in the process of working through these issues with a view to finding a solution as soon as possible to ensure that ‘business as usual."

 

South West - Peter Roberts, Planning Director

E: peter.roberts@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 0117 929 9677

Wales - Mark Roberts, Planning Director

E: mark.roberts@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 02920 660910

 

Cambridge - Gareth Pritchard, Planning Associate

E: gareth.pritchard@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 01223 345550

 

"In my view the response is indifferent with some Local Planning Authorities scrabbling around to make sense of the situation, whilst others are embracing the changes and seeing this as an opportunity to streamline their approach particularly towards committees, where they see the changes as something which may be more long-lasting beyond Covid-19, which is positive.

We hope that the Coronavirus Bill will unlock the Local Planning Authorities, who to a certain extent have buried their heads until now, though these disparities also seem to be caused by technological infrastructure at respective authorities which will need to be addressed ASAP to keep decision-making going." 

Reading/Thames Valley - Michael Knott, Planning Director

E: michael.knott@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 0118 943 0116

London - Bob McCurry, Planning Director

E: bob.mccurry@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 0207 446 6873

 

South Coast - Rebecca Horrocks, Planning Director

E: rebecca.horrocks@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 0118 943 0046

"Despite the current climate, Local Authorities in the south appear committed to maintaining business as usual where possible. New approaches to virtual working are being explored, in tandem with legislation to enable virtual Council meetings. Some authorities are quicker to respond than others, and it does not correspond that the urban authorities are necessary quicker off the mark. What we’re seeing is authorities with strong leadership, and respect between officers and members, to be better positioned to continuing as “normal”. This situation offers real potential during the current difficult times and is something that we are actively engaging in and promoting as a practice.

While some delays are inevitable, this situation does present us with an opportunity to try something new. So perhaps the silver lining here could be that discussions in future are quicker to arrange, more frequent, more interactive and more productive...and that’s not even mentioning the environmental and mental health benefits to avoiding needless travel. Every cloud."

 

North East - Stuart Natkus, Planning Director

E: stuart.natkus@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 0113 2044 779

Scotland - Christine Dalziel, Senior Planner

E: christine.dalziel@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 0131 220 7777

 

Kent - James Finn, Planning Director

E: james.finn@bartonwillmore.co.uk
DD: 01322 374694

"Every Council has taken steps to ensure the planning process can continue to operate in the current climate.  However, some LPAs are more advanced and have been quicker to adapt. The majority of LPA staff have switched to home working and have adapted to this well, with meetings that can no longer take place face-to-face taking place virtually.  However, some LPAs lack the necessary IT equipment, which has resulted in meetings being cancelled until further notice. The majority of Planning Committees have been cancelled in the short term, although the majority of Councils are looking at the procedures and protocols for progressing virtual committee meetings under the new regulations.  Staff resourcing, the placing of site notices, undertaking site visits, application notifications and signing of S106 Agreements represent a number of challenges LPAs are facing in determining and granting permission. How LPAs adopt and adapt to the news ways of working to ensure the planning process continues to operate effectively is still very much evolving."

 

Our Business Continuity Plan outlines our approach to mitigate the potential impact on the delivery of our services to our clients and to minimise the risks to our colleagues, clients and contacts. 

Please do get in touch with our Senior Partners, Mark Sitch (DD - 0121 711 5155) or Iain Painting (DD - 020 7446 6804) if you have an questions or would like to find out more about how we as a Practice are operating or any of our initiatives / thinking.

Please do stay in touch by ensuring you are opted in to recieve further communications from us over the coming weeks.

   

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Lets Find a Way, Covid-19, #letsfindaway