A number of Local authorities have already sought to utilise emergency provisions within their constitutions to allow for more decisions to be made under delegated powers. The move comes in response to numerous Committee meetings being cancelled in light of the Governments ‘social distancing’ requirements to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has already taken such action with Merton and Manchester City Council looking to follow suit. The change allows officers to determine applications which would have otherwise needed to go to committee. Officers are making a judgement call on whether to use delegated powers or not, with such rights likely not to be exercised over larger or strategic applications, which may not be so time critical, on the basis that determination at Committee will reconvene when legislation is passed to allow for ‘virtual’ committee meetings to be held.
With executive power being entrusted in the Leader of the Council to authorise executive members to make or delegate decisions, different approaches are being taken across Local Planning Authorities, often determined by their individual schemes of delegation, how resources are being prioritised and whether the decision to class ‘planners’ as key workers has been made.
Local Authorities will need to give careful consideration when amending their constitutions and increasing delegated authority, to ensure due processes are followed so applications do not run unnecessary risk of Judicial Review. Planning applications do not need to be large or strategic to be vulnerable to criticism in the decision making process.
For more information, please contact a member of our team.