Neighbourhood plan bodies should use phone calls and letters to consult during pandemic, says new guidance

Neighbourhood planning bodies may need to use "more targeted" consultation methods such as telephone or writing as well as online tools to fully engage with all sections of the community during the Covid-19 pandemic, new guidance advises.

Consultation: different methods recommended in new planning guidance
Consultation: different methods recommended in new planning guidance

The government last week updated its Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) on neighbourhood planning by adding a new paragraph on public consultation during the coronavirus crisis to paragraph 107. 

The new section says that the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 require "neighbourhood planning groups and local planning authorities to undertake publicity in a manner that is likely to bring it to the attention of people who live, work or carry on business in the neighbourhood area at particular stages of the process". 

But it is "not mandatory that engagement is undertaken using face-to-face methods", the guidance adds. 

It goes on state: "However, to demonstrate that all groups in the community have been sufficiently engaged, such as with those without internet access, more targeted methods may be needed including by telephone or in writing". 

"Local planning authorities may be able to advise neighbourhood planning groups on suitable methods and how to reach certain groups in the community."

The same 2012 regulations also require neighbourhood plan bodies and councils to publicise a draft neighbourhood plan and say where and when the relevant documents can be inspected, the PPG says. However, it is not mandatory for copies to be made available at a physical location. 

The guidance adds: "They may be held available online. Local planning authorities may be able to advise neighbourhood planning groups on suitable methods that will provide communities with access to physical copies of documents."

The PPG sections on plan-making and on consultation and pre-decision matters have also been updated to include advice on consultation and engagement during the lockdown.


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