Site visits as part of planning applications will be held virtually during the national lockdown, Harrow Council confirmed.

The change came as Conservative councillors on the planning committee called for a deferral of an application at Canons Park Station car park last night (Wednesday, January 20), which had already been deferred once to allow for a site visit.

Conservatives argued major applications such as this should be subject to full, physical visits to gauge a complete view of the situation, least not when one has been promised.

But the planning committee agreed that online viewings were satisfactory for gaining a deeper understanding of proposed developments.

It explained carrying out physical inspections during a period of national lockdown, imposed to reduce the spread of Covid-19, could go against government guidelines.

The intention is to resume full site visits, where necessary, once restrictions have been relaxed and it is “safe to do so”.

Cllr Marilyn Ashton, the Harrow Conservatives’ spokesman on planning, stressed that “what matters is we get it right”, while Cllr Christopher Baxter suggested it was “irrelevant” if they had to wait given the impact of the final decision.

“We are entitled to a site visit and, with the opposition [the application] has had, we must have one,” added Cllr Anjana Patel.

And they suggested it could lead to further issues if other applications in the future are treated to physical viewings when others were not.

However, Labour councillors on the committee, who form a majority, said the videos that formed the online site visit were enough to get a genuine sense of the impact a development could have.

Committee chairman Cllr Ghazanfar Ali praised the extensive number of angles they were able to view, while Cllr Simon Brown said he was “happy to go ahead” using this method.

Cllr Keith Ferry pointed out there is “no legal requirement” to carry out a physical site visit and said many places can be viewed individually outside of an official trip.

He added there could be issues with exceeding the time limits applications need to be judged in if there were a series of deferrals.