Democracy goes virtual as R&B hold 1st online Planning Committee

Council meetings at Reigate & Banstead Borough Council are now being run virtually so that the democratic process can continue despite coronavirus social distancing measures.

Last week’s Planning Committee, on Wednesday 15 April, was one of the first planning committees to be held virtually nationally and is thought to be the first in Surrey. It follows the introduction of new government rules allowing remote council meetings in its recent coronavirus emergency legislation.

The committee considered a complex application for a retirement village on the former Legal and General site in Kingswood.

The meeting was held via an online video conference tool, which allows the Chair to run the meeting like a normal committee, but safely from home. Planning officers were able to present their reports and use the technology to share slides and videos, which were viewable by the committee. Councillors then voted via an electronic poll with the results available to view on their screens.

Twenty six members of the public, including residents, developers and planning consultants were able to listen and participate in the meeting which is available on the Council’s website.

As the Council adapts to the new challenges and reviews and refines its approach, it is anticipated that future meetings will be live streamed on its YouTube channel so members of the public can watch, as well as listen, to proceedings.

Cllr Mark Brunt, Council Leader, said: “We’re adapting as quickly as we can in response to the challenges posed by the coronavirus restrictions and new legislation, to try to ensure that the democratic process and business of the council can continue. It’s great to be one of the first to be able to achieve this despite the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in.”

The next meeting to be held virtually will be the Planning Committee on Wednesday 29 April. You can find details of future meeting on the Council’s website at                      

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