Virtual planning meetings will decide on Norwich homes schemes
- Credit: PA
Decisions over new developments in Norwich will once again be taken by members of the city council’s planning committee from next month - after councillors agreed to start virtual meetings.
In April, following coronavirus lockdown, a virtual meeting of Norwich City Council’s planning committee was held - to decide not to hold virtual planning committees during the pandemic.
That has meant the bulk of decisions have been made by officers using delegated powers, while 10 major and non-major, but contentious, applications have been with agreed in consultation with committee chairman Keith Driver or, one occasion, with vice chair Marion Maxwell.
That is in contrast to many other councils in Norfolk, which have continued to hold planning meetings virtually.
But, at a meeting held on Zoom on Thursday, City Hall’s planning committee agreed it will meet virtually from August, so decisions can be made by the full committee.
However, concerns were raised over a move which will mean a number of applications, which would previously have gone to the committee, will be dealt with by officers.
That included applications such as extensions to homes, schemes of up to 10 homes which did not have at least four objections and major schemes, unless they had at least two objections. Officers said those changes would help make meetings manageable.
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But Judith Lubbock, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton, said: “I am really surprised to see these changes. I really do think it is a step backwards. I feel I am most effective in planning when helping a householder, who is objecting, to get the issue heard by the committee.”
Officers said such matters would still come before the committee if councillors requested it and Green group leader Sandra Bogelein said it was important the public were told that.
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Councillors did agree the changes, and the start of virtual meetings in August, but did make it so the number of objections to trigger a more minor scheme coming before councillors was cut from four to two.
When the meetings do start, initially, the public will not be able to speak at them, but will be able to submit written statements to be read out.