Online planning committee meetings will start at Guildford Borough Council on May 20.

Only householder and minor applications will be discussed at the inaugural virtual public meeting which is being hosted via by Microsoft Teams. It follows the Government’s Coronavirus Act which has allowed council meetings to go online.

Cllr Jan Harwood, lead member for planning, regeneration and housing delivery, said: “It is vital that council business is able to continue as much as possible, and whilst we prioritise looking after our most vulnerable residents and providing key services, we also need to continue to make decisions in a democratic way, and the change in the law enables us to do that using the technology available to us.

“Councils must be resilient and forward-thinking in order to adapt to new challenges, and to embrace new ways of working. Our Future Guildford Transformation Programme brought new IT systems to the council which now allow us to hold virtual meetings and ensure our democratic response to coronavirus is the best it can be.”

Members of the public can register to speak on minor applications which have attracted 20 or more objections, or household applications with 10 or more objections. Those who have made objections will be invited to register to speak. Four available public speaking slots (two for and two against) will be given out on a first come, first served, basis.

The council has long webcast its meetings but this will be the first where members of the public can take part online.

Cllr Marsha Moseley, chair of the planning committee, said: “Public participation in planning committee meetings is a very important part of the process, and we recognise that they are always some of the best-attended meetings in the council diary.

“This reflects the fact that planning, development and housing are key priorities for the council. We will continue to ensure that residents are able to attend virtual meetings and, where applicable, be involved in our planning decisions.”

The council intends that subsequent virtual meetings will deal with larger planning applications.

Image: From the council’s last webcast planning meeting, leader, Cllr Marsha Moseley.

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