'Growing concern' over use of delegated planning powers in Manchester

Reports that "concern is growing that emergency powers given to Manchester City council during the Covid-19 crisis will be used to pass controversial decisions" feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Times (subscription) reports that the council "has suspended its planning committee to ensure social distancing. Campaigners say the emergency arrangements, under which some decisions are taken by the chief executive, Joanne Roney, are not democratic." It says that planning applications, including one for a concert arena which would be built on a site that the council has a 20 per cent stake in, "will be considered by Roney, the [planning] committee chairman, Basil Curley, and his deputy, Nasrin Ali."

An article in The Telegraph by Nicholas Boys Smith, director of Create Streets and co-chair of the government's Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, says that the coronavirus crisis will add pressure on Britain's small builders. The piece calls for changes to "Britain's uniquely complex planning and regulatory system" to support such firms.

The Financial Times' (subscription) Lex column says that the coronavirus pandemic means that the "time to repurpose excess retail space has come". The piece says: "Where surplus space can be turned into much-needed housing, something valuable could be salvaged".

Writing in The Scotsman, Jacqueline Cook, head of planning at law firm Davidson Chalmers Stewarts, says the planning system "must adapt to the new normal". She writes: "Modern town and country planning, born in the aftermath of World War II, enhanced regulation supporting reconstruction and the emerging welfare state. As an expression of socio-economic policy, our planning system must also once again adapt to the new normal to address the challenges in a post-Covid-19 world."

Writing in The Times, James Kirkup, director of the Social Market Foundation think tank, says that an "achievable goal of government in post-Covid Britain should be an economy which is less skewed towards London and which emits far less carbon." He writes: "Our national crash course in video-conferencing is already persuading some businesses they really don't need to locate so many staff in the most expensive corner of the country. Some of the offices now standing empty in gleaming towers in the City of London will remain quiet for years to come."

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