We need to do everything we can in the short term to stop the spread of covid-19.
But we also know that the economic consequences of the lockdown will be felt for some time.
Unemployment and poverty are closely linked to health, life expectancy and quality of life – and some sectors of the economy are not going to return to normal straight away.
That’s why it’s important to limit the negative impacts by supporting our local economy as much as possible within social distancing guidelines.
For many of us, that means learning how to do things differently and operating outside of our comfort zone.
Brighton and Hove, in common with all local authorities, is expected to continue to process planning applications – and that’s what we’re doing.
Our staff have adapted to working at home, supported by a considerable effort and investment in information technology.
This has helped us conduct planning committee meetings entirely online – and members of the public have been taking part in these virtual meetings, together with councillors and applicants, to make their views known.
Public consultation has been continuing as usual, including notices in public places and neighbour letters.
The council’s website continues to offer detailed guidance on how to comment on applications.
Along with many other organisations, social distancing restrictions mean that planning services staff are currently unable to deal with telephone inquiries.
However, we are working on special arrangements and are planning to reopen phone lines soon.
Building projects often take a long time – and the planning application is neither the first nor last step in the process.
By the time an application comes in, a lot of work has been done already. If permission is granted there is still more to do, particularly on major applications, to secure improvements and developer contributions before any work can be started on site.
It is tempting in this time of crisis to think that everything should stop but we need to look ahead.
Brighton and Hove will continue to need homes, jobs and infrastructure beyond this crisis – probably more so.
Therefore, whatever we can safely do now will limit the damage and help us on the road to recovery.
Councillor Tracey Hill chairs the Planning Committee on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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