The emergency delegation powers brought in earlier in 2020 have now ceased and planning decisions will now revert to being made in accordance with the Council's scheme of delegation.
The Council Offices remain closed and until this situation changes, all meetings will take place virtually via Skype or Zoom unless a site meeting is considered essential by the case officer.
Officer site visits have resumed for current planning applications on the basis that Officers do not enter buildings. Officers are required to exercise social-distancing measures at all times whilst on site and to comply with the latest Government guidance relating to Covid-19.
As a result of Covid-19 the Planning department along with all other areas of the Council have been working to adapt the way we deliver our functions and continue with business as usual. There are several areas within the planning department that have changed or will be changing shortly;
Due to the many challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has brought, including the current cessation of face-to-face Council meetings, the Chief Planner in collaboration with the Chief Executive has taken the decision to exercise emergency delegation powers as set out within the Council's constitution allowing him to take determine planning decisions that would otherwise be taken by the Planning & Licensing Committee.
The aim of this decision is to keep business moving at this difficult time. Preparation for Planning Committee requires significant resources and resources must be used effectively to ensure business continuity alongside other Covid-19 support services.
The Chief Planning Officer will closely follow the advice set out in the Planning Officer Society guidance below, ensuring that Planning Committee Members are involved in the 'new process'. The full details of the new procedure can be viewed here;
The process will in effect be designed upon a hybrid of the two existing procedures for determining planning applications - the delegated decision procedure and the planning committee procedure.
Please note the amended procedure will not apply to applications in the following categories;
Applications of a strategic nature or within the categories above will continue to be reported to the Planning and Licensing committee for a committee decision to be made.
The new process will commence from 29 May 2020 and will continue until resources enable a return to more usual working practices.
As of Tuesday 26 May Folkestone and Hythe District Council will hold Planning & Licensing Committee meetings remotely using Zoom technology. Please note that any member of the press and public may watch and listen to proceedings at these meeting via a weblink which will be publicised on our website at least 24 hours before the meeting. If you have commented on any application that is due to be reported to a remote Planning & Licensing committee, we will be writing to you to advise you of the date of the meeting that the application will be reported to with details about how you can participate.
Some planning conditions require materials to be submitted for approval. In the current circumstances, please do not sent material samples into the Council, please sent photographs of the materials instead using the usual procedure for complying with conditions.
We understand that applicants and developers will be concerned about the implications of COVID-19 on the Council's ability to process planning applications within statutory timescales.
As a Council we recognise that it is important that authorities continue to provide the best service possible in these difficult times and prioritise decision-making to ensure the planning system continues to function, especially where this will support the local economy.
As a council we are using all options available to us to continue to provide a service. Face-to-face meetings have been cancelled but we are able to use technology to ensure that discussions and consultations can go ahead.
Our team of Planning Officers are all now working from home and have done so since Wednesday 18 March. Whilst there may have an impact on our service compared to normal we are still able to issue planning decisions. If meetings for planning applications are necessary an officer will seek to use conference call facilities or video calls.
We will endeavour to be as pragmatic as possible when agreeing extended periods for making decisions.
We continue to work hard to continue to deal with applications as quickly as possible.
A small number of planning applications need to be decided by the Planning Committee and we understand that the Government is to introduce legislation to enable council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period
Whilst we continue to explore options available to us future Planning Committee meetings have been suspended until further notice. We appreciate that this may result in delays to applications and for this we apologise but in current circumstances we have no other choice.
Until further notice, no site visits will be able to take place on any planning applications. Applicants and agents can help us by sending us up-to-date video or photographs of the application site. Planning officers will be in contact on a case by case basis to discuss these options with applicants.
Once again we apologise for any inconvenience that this might cause and ask you to bear with us - we are doing everything in our powers to ensure that disruption to our ability to issue planning decisions is minimised.