June 25, 2020 @ 15:27 by Richard Dawson
The business member organisation, Developing Consensus, is calling for planning to be made a key priority as the North East looks to attract further investment and developing following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developing Consensus works to tackle barriers to growth within the region and has highlighted planning and collaboration between the public and private sector as being a crucial part of the North East’s recovery.
The intervention follows data collected by business consultancy, Pegasus Group, which shows that, as of June 4, only five out of 12 North East local authorities have progressed with virtual planning committees.
Sandra Manson, senior director at Pegasus Group, said: “It’s crucial that we pick up the pace and that planning committees embrace and utilise technology to help our region move forward.
“Whilst we understand there are concerns and challenges regarding IT and the risk of unfair hearing claims, these are all barriers that must be overcome to help our recovery.
“Here at Developing Consensus we want to work alongside local authorities to introduce real practical steps that will support development and existing business on the ground as we come out of lockdown.
“Part of this will also be looking outside the region and taking examples of best practice from around the country.
“For example, Merseyside Council has introduced a package of temporary measures including refunds of application fees for developers whose schemes begin work within a year of a consent renewal, free pre-application advice and five-year consents for new schemes.”
Gavin Black, partner at Naylors Gavin Black, added: “If we can make quicker planning decisions, this could be a key factor in the survival of businesses in our hospitality sector.
“To use Grey Street as an example, if more bars and restaurants can get quick approval on pavement licences and introduce outdoor areas to their facilities during the summer, this could have them open for business a lot sooner.
“Whilst many are viewing the next few months as a time of recovery, it is also a time for opportunity and to really drive forward development through our planning processes within the region.”