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Helping our planning clients adapt to virtual ways of working

June 22, 2020

By Jane Hirst

Jane Hirst, Planning Director, explores how you can get the most out of your online planning meetings

Earlier this year the UK Government revised the regulations around public consultations to ensure that Local Authorities can continue to make transparent and effective decisions on planning applications during the pandemic.

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) have had to adapt their ways of working to keep the planning system moving during lockdown, and so our advice to clients through all stages of the planning process has evolved in response.

At Stantec, we have been working closely with our clients to overcome the challenges and maximise the opportunities of hosting stakeholder consultations and planning committee meetings virtually, to ensure that we can keep their projects moving forward during this unprecedented time.

As you would expect, our planning experts have received many enquiries for guidance on the latest planning reforms and how to ensure ‘business as usual’ planning in light of COVID-19. Many are also wondering whether it is now the right time to submit a planning application.

We are proud to be supporting applications, designing and building communities that will provide a much needed economic and cultural boost both during and post the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks we have helped our clients navigate the challenges of lockdown on a number of major planning projects, including gaining planning permission for a new affordable housing development in Westminster, and have successfully supported a major planning application for the third largest entertainment complex in the UK.

Here are our top five tips for getting the most out of online planning meetings. 

  1. Preparation is key – Make sure your team is aligned on the planning issues on the agenda and set up a separate Whatsapp or MS Teams conversation where you can discreetly swap notes during the call if needed. Make sure your device is visible, so that you can see when an alert pops up.
  2. Expect the unexpected – We’ve all experienced technical issues outside of our control. Set expectations at the start of the meeting for what will happen if this occurs. For example, if bandwidth is an issue, agree to turn off video and continue the meeting with audio. Ensure you have alternative contact numbers for those on the call, in case of a problem.
  3. Consider your background - Try to stay centred in the camera on your device, and avoid being too close. You may need to raise your device to achieve a more natural camera angle. Bright background light is distracting - soft front lighting is preferable.
  4. Divide your screen but not your attention - A second screen to show plans and documents is desirable. Position accordingly, so you are not diverted away from the main screen while presenting.
  5. Every minute counts – In an online meeting you may not have an immediate opportunity to respond, so note taking is more important than ever. If you are recording the meeting, then ensure all participants are aware.
  • Jane Hirst

    With 30 years in chartered planning, Jane leads our UK planning team and manages projects that need planning or EIA services. Jane is focused on meeting client needs and delivers residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects across the UK.

    Contact Jane
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