Technology delivers democracy during Covid-19 emergency

It was virtually business as usual when Waltham Forest Council’s Planning Committee met on Tuesday (31 March 2020) to decide a number of applications from developers in the borough.

Councillors on the Planning Committee met in a Committee Room where they could maintain social distancing and meet current legislation regarding Council meetings, but all other participation was done using Microsoft Teams in what is believed to be the first meeting of its kind held by any Council in the country.

One of the main applications for discussion was a development by Taylor Wimpey for Coronation Square in Leyton which includes 750 new homes, half of them affordable, a new health hub, pre-school nursery, indoor sports centre, District Heating Centre and Civic Square

Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Housing Development, Councillor Simon Miller, said: “This meeting was due to discuss the largest home building scheme in the Council’s programme and we were keen to make sure that it stayed on schedule.

“Government regulations meant we would not be able to hold a normal meeting due to social distancing, so our officers used Microsoft Teams to allow the Committee Members to be in one room with officers, applicants, objectors and other observers using the video conferencing facility.

“At one time around 60 people were taking part and the meeting was a great success showing the ingenuity of Council staff to use technology to deliver democracy during the current COVID-19 emergency.”