Agenda item

Questions on matters relating to the work of the committee


City Plan 2036

A Member questioned when the City Plan would go out for public consultation. Officers reported that all of the necessary documents were set to be uploaded onto the public webpages this week and that if that happened on schedule the public consultation would commence next week. Members were reminded that the consultation stage would last for 6 weeks.


Awareness of Planning Applications/Stakeholder Engagement

A Member commented that, on the basis of comments made at today’s and previous meetings, there seemed to be an ongoing issue with regard to the lack of awareness when applications were being submitted and worked up in the pre-consultation stages. These concerns had been raised by residents with regard to the 70 Gracechurch Street application where they had said that they had not been made aware of pre-consultation meetings taking place in the wider area and a Member had raised concerns today that residents had not been made aware of plans or given the ability to feed into the wider process. The Member questioned how this might be improved upon for people living and working in the City and how information on plans might be shared at an earlier stage with a view to minimising objections in the longer term.


The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director underlined that Officers took a very proactive approach to advise developers at a very early, pre-application, stage of the need to engage, with any major schemes also required to have a Statement of Community Involvement which would set out measures taken. He recognised that there were, however, questions posed as to whether this process had been as rigorous and robust as it could have been in relation to some schemes.


The Chair added that when he and the Deputy Chairman first met with developers at pre-application stage, the standard question they tended to ask was around Ward Member and wider engagement with other stakeholders.


With regard to a comment on how plans were flagged with residents at both primary and secondary residences (particularly during the ongoing pandemic), the interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director undertook to report back to Members on current practice and how this compared with other local authorities. A Member responded to state that other local authorities tended to contact all those within a certain radius of an application site but noted that the City Corporation did not normally send letters to residents. She noted that similar discussions were also taking place in terms of notifying residents of licensing applications. She questioned whether notices could be placed on the City’s public webpages at as early a stage as possible to help improve notification and communication of these.


The Chair commented that he had been surprised to learn of how many stakeholders the City consulted with informally as a matter of course on forthcoming applications alongside any statutory consultees. He asked that Officers reflect this in any response to the Member on this matter.


Virtual Meetings

A Member recognised that the government legislation allowing for virtual meetings was set to come to an end and asked what thought the City Corporation had therefore given to facilitating hybrid or face-to-face meetings thereafter. 


The Town Clerk responded by stating that the legislation which allowed for virtual meetings was due to come to an end in early May 2021, and that further information was currently awaited from government on the proposed way forward and whether or not this was likely to be extended.  If the legislation were not extended, Members were reminded that the Committee had already successfully trialled hybrid meetings with Officers reminding them that these would need to take place in accordance with any ongoing rules around social distancing and numbers. The Committee were also informed that the Committee meeting rooms in the West Wing had now also been equipped with the necessary equipment to host hybrid meetings.


The Chair added that he was personally very keen to return to in-person/hybrid meetings as soon as possible.  The Deputy Chairman highlighted that the Ministry of Justice were beginning consultation this week and seeking to allow local authorities greater flexibility to choose the type and format of meetings going forward. He added that he felt that it was imperative that the City Corporation were ready to proceed as soon as hybrid/in-person meetings became a viable option once more.