Thank you for writing to me about the planning system. I have read your email carefully and noted the key points that you raise.
A planning system that is based on a legal framework and clear consultation with local residents should be at the heart of responsible development. This is particularly relevant when normal working practices are disrupted, as has happened with the coronavirus outbreak.
The majority of planning decisions are made by planning officers. Planning committee meetings are held to decide a smaller number of cases. These meetings can now be held virtually as you mention.
The Government has emphasised that local planning authorities should seek to use all options available to them to facilitate decision-making. It has also explained that local authorities should ensure public participation in the planning process is maintained during the outbreak. Ministers are working with the Planning Advisory Service to provide further information on how this can be achieved.
Amendments to existing regulations will temporarily supplement publicity requirements to put up site notice, issue neighbour notification letters and place newspaper advertisements. This will give local authorities more flexibility about the best way to publicise planning applications, including considering the use of social media and other online services.
Local authorities should continue to focus on decision-making during these difficult times. I believe that clear and timely decisions provide certainty for local people and benefit the local economy.
For more information please see: https://www.gov.uk/housing-local-and-community/planning-system
Thank you once again for writing to me.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking