A PLANNING committee meeting that was held online has been described as “appalling” by one member, who said such a meeting must never happen again.

With 10 items on the agenda, Thursday’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee would have been a lengthy meeting even in normal circumstances.

But with Covid 19 restrictions in place, the meeting had to be held online, with Councillors, planning officers and objectors having to communicate via video calls.

Meetings usually take place in Bradford City Hall.

During the meeting, which began at 10am and lasted to well after 5pm, the live stream went down, speakers were unable to address the committee due to technical issues, and some members dropped out mid discussion.

Problems with the set up were raised during the meeting, with one Councillor saying the online system was “not fit for purpose.”

And after the meeting, committee member Councillor Geoff Reid (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive Kersten England to raise his concerns.

He said the problems raised real possibilities the meeting may not have been quorate (the minimum number of members required to legally make a decision) as Councillors dropped out of the meeting due to connection issues.

In an email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service he said: “I make no complaint about a planning meeting lasting all day. It goes with the territory.

“However I was really concerned about how much time we wasted because of the frailty of the system facilitating an on-line meeting of the Committee. We must never again have a meeting like last Thursday’s.

“Various members of the committee, as well as officers and other interested parties, disappeared from view or ceased to be heard. We quite often found ourselves simply waiting to see whether someone would reappear or not.

“On a number of occasions the Chair had to check that we remained legally quorate. Decisions were taken with less than appropriate participation and by the end of the meeting I was beginning to worry as to whether our decisions were in danger of becoming unsafe.

“It is vital that we learn from Thursday’s appalling experience and, if need be, find ways of meeting in City Hall, perhaps in the Council Chamber, with suitable spacing and other safety measures for members, officers, interested parties and members of the public.”

Arguably the most contentious items at the meeting were two separate applications for housing in Menston.

The two applications, totalling 161 homes, were eventually approved by members.

During the debate Councillor Dale Smith (Con, Wharfedale), speaking as an objector, said the sensitive item should be adjourned due to the temperamental nature of the IT system.

He said: “This should be deferred until the time a normal meeting can be held. It is obvious the technology is not fit for purpose. It hasn’t worked.”

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of some  connectivity problems which occurred during last Thursday’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee.  

“The meeting  started at 10am. but the live streaming  stopped at 11.30. The meeting was adjourned for just 12 minutes when the picture was lost in the live stream, although sound was still working. The issue was quickly resolved.   

“ In every meeting held remotely, the Chair routinely checks that all members are able to participate on each item on the agenda. The Chair ensured  this was the case at the Regulatory and Appeals Committee,  so all decisions taken involved every member of the committee.

“The Government has passed legislation to enable councillors to undertake decision-making remotely.  Legislation has also currently not permitted meetings in person.  Until this legislation is repealed or amended, we must continue to hold virtual meetings. We are still in the midst of a pandemic,  so must do all we can to follow the provisions made to ensure the safety of all.”