This morning London First held their first webinar-based leader's briefing with Cllr Thorpe, Leader of Greenwich Council.  It was a successful event, and discussed a broad spectrum of issues that the Royal Borough will be facing both during and after the COVID-19 emergency.

Within the discussion were some pertinent points for planning , and how development will need to adapt and respond to the current crisis. 

Virtual Committees

It was useful to hear that there is to be a coordinated approach across London on the  implementation of the new powers relating to virtual committees that came in to effect last week.  

We have already had a scheme decided by virtual committee in LB Waltham Forest, and can see that decision making need not stop if technology is embraced.  

The decision being made to identify and move towards a standardised approach to accessing Council committees should give reassurance to the public that these meetings remain accessible and decisions accountable. 

Head of Housing, Will Edmonds, recently commented on rethinking public engagement which expands on this further.

The Challenge for Town Centres

Even before the current crises there was an emphasis on looking at the future of town centres. It's safe to say that town centres will never be the same again, and there will be continued interest on how these can adapt and recover.

We are all embracing the benefit of small and local businesses, and hopefully this will continue and these businesses will be part of the future in a more meaningful way. 

But there will need to be careful thought about the strategy which Councils and landowners take for their towns. The work that we do to take a strategic view on the their purpose and content provides an opportunity to help to re-position towns coming out of this situation to embrace the opportunities that are out there.   

Public Places and Open Spaces

Valid observations were made during the discussion on the importance of open space, both public and private.  

Many schemes do make a valuable contribution to delivering this, but now there is a common understanding of the value that meaningful open space can add to the places where we live, work, and play. 

As we move forward, it is expected that there will be political pressure on ensuring that new schemes do more than meet the minimum requirements for the betterment of future residents and the wider community.  

For me, it was clear that there is an opportunity to respond positively from the current situation. There will be ways in which our approach to the built environment has the potential to learn from the current situation, to restart with fresh strategies that take the positives from this situation and start to rebuild the economy.

In my mind, it won't be a case of "business as usual", as it should be a case of "business, but better".