Four Marks gypsy pitch plans to be heard at EHDC's first virtual meeting

The proposed site of five new gypsy pitches in Willis Lane, Four Marks ()

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AN APPLICATION for five new gypsy pitches in Four Marks will be decided by councillors next week – in East Hampshire District Council’s first ’virtual’ council meeting since the coronavirus outbreak began.

The proposal (reference 29336/008/FUL/JonH) concerns the use of land at Janeland in Willis Lane for the stationing of caravans for residential purposes for five gypsy pitches with utility/day rooms.

East Hampshire’s planning committee will debate the application at 6pm on Thursday, May 21 using video conferencing system Skype – and the public are invited to watch the meeting in progress online.

View the agenda for the meeting, including a report on the Four Marks application, in advance online at https://easthants.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=158&MId=2497&Ver=4

The council stopped holding public meetings when the Government announced the lockdown on March 23 but continued its operations using emergency powers allowing the council leader authority to make executive decisions.

The decision has already been taken to suspend the annual council meeting, which normally sees councillors appointed to roles and committees and includes the election of a new chairman.

Councillors will continue in their current roles until the annual council meeting can be held.

Cllr Richard Millard, leader of East Hampshire District Council, said: “During the coronavirus outbreak it has been much harder for the council to continue its normal business.

"We have obviously had to suspend public meetings and many of our staff have moved from their normal, day-to-day roles to help out with our work to support vulnerable local people.

“We have still managed to keep our normal business running as smoothly as possible, but it is a key pillar of local government that the decisions are scrutinised by the general public.

“As a result, we will soon be holding our first online meetings, which will give the public the opportunity to ‘attend’ the meeting and follow the decision-making process.

“These virtual meetings will give the public a chance to hear the debate and follow the decisions being made.”

East Hampshire District Council’s constitution gives the leader, Cllr Millard, and his cabinet, authority to make executive decisions as required.

These decisions are also subject to the same ‘call-in’ process and can be challenged through the council’s scrutiny process.

Digital meetings are now possible after changes to the law allowed councillors to take part in meetings and vote on decisions without physically being present.

Planning applications that can be determined by officers are still going ahead as normal, but larger applications, that would normally go to committee for debate and decision, are being held back for the virtual meetings.

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