The regulations give effect to emergency coronavirus legislation that permits councils to hold virtual meetings throughout the pandemic’s outbreak. The regulations permit local authority members to attend meetings remotely, either by phone or video link. The basic requirements are that members can be heard and can hear others, with video links only required "where practicable". The regulations extends the definition of the "place" where meetings can be held to include digital or virtual locations like web addresses and telephone conference calls. Committee members attending remotely must be able to hear each other, as well as applicants and council officers. However, they will only need to be able to hear members of the public if the latter are registered and entitled to speak at the meeting. Members of the public must able to hear what is going on, but there will be no requirement to hear them unless they are entitled to speak because they have registered.
To qualify as “open to the public”, the meeting should be accessible through remote means including video conferencing, live webcast and live interactive streaming. Where a meeting is accessible to the public through these remote means, it will be judged open to the public whether or not they are able to attend the meeting in person. Local authorities will have leeway to make their own standing orders on voting arrangements, access to documents and the form of remote access to be made available to the general public. The regulations, which only apply to council meetings to be held before 7 May 2021, also enable requirements for public and press access to documents associated with council meetings to be complied with through remote means and website access.
The new regulations apply to all local, combined and national park authorities. Joint planning committees, established by local planning authorities under the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, will also be covered.
Date: 4/4/2020 Coming into force date
This item updates DCP Section 5.223