Changes to how people can raise concerns over planning applications in South Tyneside during lockdown
South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee rubber-stamped the temporary changes this week which will withdraw public speaking rights.
However, people wanting to have their say on developments in the borough still have the right to submit a written statement of up to five minutes which may be read out.
The changes come as the council presses ahead with virtual meetings in line with government guidance around social distancing.
Planning chiefs have stressed that public speaking rights will return to normal once the authority reinstates ‘face-to-face meetings’.
Planning Committee chair, Coun Alan Smith, explained the changes at a remote meeting in June 22, which was broadcast live on YouTube.
“For each planning application an officer from planning will present the report outlining the proposals and the issues,” he said.
“Normally the committee would then hear from speakers however given the current lockdown and the council’s technical solution for holding meetings, it is not currently practical for the committee to hear members of the public speak.”
Planning officer, Peter Cunningham, added: “Members are very aware that the views of the public are an integral part of the planning application decision-making process.
“This report does not seek to prevent members of the public from commenting on planning applications.
“Representations submitted against the planning application will be summarised and carefully considered in the committee report in the normal way.
“This report seeks to ensure that those members of the public that have made a representation against the planning application and want to address the committee directly, are still able to do so whilst not being in attendance at the meeting.
“The suggested changes are only temporary and will stop when it is safe to have face to face meetings again.”
The written statements apply to objectors, elected ward councillors and Planning Committee members who have either a predetermined interest or common law conflict of interest in relation to a planning application.
As a result of Covid-19, physical site visits by the Planning Committee have also been suspended until further notice.
However, planning bosses said the council is investigating if there is a “technical solution” to replace them.