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Press on with planning

New research reveals that three quarters of councillors say they should use new powers to press on with planning committees and keep consulting.

We must not lose the opportunity for an expeditious rebound in the vital energy, property and infrastructure sectors of the UK economy. This is the strong message sent by the British political firmament in a recent survey of UK councillors commissioned by BECG and undertaken by Savanta ComRes.

The survey of 429 councillors identified that two-thirds of town hall politicians are concerned about the detrimental impact that a stall in planning permissions will have on the UK economy.

With the new powers granted by government and the growth of innovative virtual and digital consultation techniques, there is a strong view emerging that the crucial business of planning needs to continue unabated.

75% of councillors think that planning committees should continue in some form during the pandemic, and 77% think that applicants and developers should continue to consult by adapting to comply with the Government’s Covid-19 guidelines.

Engaging remotely with local communities

On consultation, the picture is more varied.  The preferred methods for engaging with local communities reflected a desire to maintain as many of the more traditional methods allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At BECG, we’ve been working with private and public sector clients across property, energy and infrastructure to keep things moving – combining the traditional methods of newsletters and phone calls with virtual exhibitions, engaging webinars, and social media targeting to drive audience participation.

Some local authorities, particularly those where anti-development sentiment is highest, have seized the opportunity to obfuscate, delay, and ignore the very clear advice from government to keep things moving.

However, we’ve also seen first-hand that many authorities are innovating, adapting, and encouraging the sector to progress their development ambitions.  No one is suggesting that virtual committees and consultations replace the requirement for face-to-face engagement and democratic participation in normal times, but they do understand that in extraordinary times we need flexibility to protect the economy and ultimately the wellbeing of our villages, town and cities across the country.

we’ve also seen first-hand that many authorities are innovating, adapting, and encouraging the sector to progress their development ambitions

Keeping the planning process moving

At BECG, we’ve launched a virtual exhibition and telephone surgeries in relation to the Bradwell B nuclear power station in Essex, we’ve progressed remote planning consultations for homes, hotels, retail and offices throughout England and previously worked with the Cambridgeshire Constabulary to continue consultation around proposed police service changes (visit our own BECG virtual exhibition here).

Virtual Consultations Services Guide

The message from the survey is clear. It demonstrates that the body politic has the appetite to keep the planning process moving.  It is for the development industry to respond positively, working in partnership with local authorities to ensure that we continue to put engagement and democratic accountability at the heart of our planning system.

During this crisis and beyond, we continue to work with our clients and the public sector to raise the bar – if you want to find out more, please register for our upcoming webinar or get in touch.


Join our Planning Conversation
Thursday 30 April, 2:30 – 3:30pm
Webinar: Digital Planning & Consultation in a COVID-19 World

Join me and our guest Councillor Clare Coghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, who will be providing insight on the Local Authorities approach to planning during the Coronavirus pandemic. We will also be discussing best practice in digital consultation including a demonstration of our virtual exhibition.

Register for your free place