Pragmatic and prepared – The planning profession’s response to Covid-19

PDP_RTPI Pragmatic Prepared

The latest RTPI research paper “Pragmatic and Prepared for the Recovery” sets out the findings from a recent survey of members of the Royal Town Planning Institute on how planning departments have been responding to this unprecedented situation. During March and April of this year, over a 1000 members of the RTPI responded to an online survey on COVID-19.

The report aims to contribute to the immediate need for guidance on how to maintain effective planning services in a much changed environment and will inform the RTPI’s continuing work with governments across the UK and Ireland. It reviews early lessons and starts to assess how the profession can prepare to support the delivery of a sustainable economic recovery.

The full report is available for download HERE

Following the introduction of social distancing measures in the UK and Ireland in March 2020, planning departments were confronted with the unprecedented task of maintaining decision making without the usual face to face planning committee meetings. The RTPI have seen a multitude of responses and heard a range of suggested approaches to take through the RTPI survey such as delegating to officers or holding virtual planning committees.

The responses by Governments to Covid-19 are clearly fast moving and the overarching approach to relaxing lockdown restrictions was announced for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Ireland in early May 2020. The various National governments that make up the RTPI Nations of UK and Ireland have taken varying actions affecting the planning system in response to the crisis. Concerns raised by RTPI members related to the expiration of planning permissions, the barriers preventing officers progressing an application in the usual ways and the difficulties of processing new applications during the sustained period of remote working.

The protocol around how or indeed whether to conduct site visits and uncertainty on how to deal with statutory publicity procedures through the posting of site notices for planning applications were questions that came up time and again in the survey.

Fascinating insights were provided about working from home, the use of technology and health and wellbeing, with a mix of views on how the profession has been coping with these matters.

Major themes to emerge were the productivity challenges when working from home alongside the opportunities it provided, an appetite to review the problems and capture the benefits of the accelerated use of technology in planning during the crisis. The importance of access to green/outdoor spaces for both exercise and general well being was seen to have taken on even greater importance during the crisis. The difficulties of maintaining a ‘business as usual’ approach where redeployment of planners was also raised with the potential delays this could cause to the planning system.

The working practices that Planning & Design Practice Ltd have undertaken to minimise any potential impact the coronavirus may have on our service to our clients is outlined HERE.

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