Our NP Steering Group has been going for 3 years now (we have just gone through examination stage) and 7 out of 10 members still work and 3 of us are retired (including me as Vice Chair). Its also a fact that most of the staff at our LPA are not usually available for evening/weekend meetings.
Today we had a key meeting with our LPA and we arranged for our planning consultant (funded by the Locality grant) to join those of us that were free – we are also fortunate that our Chair owns his own business and we scheduled the meeting so that he too could attend. On reflection, there is a definite benefit in having a chair that can take time off as well as having retired folk like myself. On other key occasions we have be able to persuade Planning officers from the LPA to attend evening/weekend meetings; it is, after all, part of their statutory duty to support and engage with us and they receive funding to to cover such eventualities (£5k on designation and £30k on examination/referendum).