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Appeal methods

The Planning Inspectorate can deal with an appeal in one of three ways

  • Through written representations, with an informal hearing
  • By ordering a public inquiry.

The function of an appeal is to examine the local authority's decision on the planning application.

In each case, an inspector is appointed to preside over the appeal and take the final decision.

  • Evidence is gathered and sometimes an official visit is made to the site of the proposed development.
  • In exceptional circumstances, the decision is referred to the Secretary of State.

Written representations

This is the most common appeals method. In this type of appeal, the inspector reaches a decision based on written submissions from the planning applicant, the local authority and any objectors.

Informal hearings

If an informal hearing is called, evidence for and against the development is given orally, but in a less formal setting than at a public inquiry.

Public inquiries

If a planning application is controversial, it may be dealt with at a public inquiry.

This is the most formal and adversarial of the three options. Over the course of the inquiry, the inspector takes oral evidence from anyone with a vested interest in the development, or who wants to express a view.

The inspector also takes written submissions into account when making the final decision.

Public inquiries: your opportunity

In significant cases, where there is substantial public feeling, a public inquiry is the best chance you have to get your case across.

If you are contesting a planning application of this nature, securing a public inquiry should be your key goal.

Although inquiries can be stressful, time-consuming and in some cases expensive, the inspector will be left in no doubt about the strength of local feeling.

You cannot demand that an inquiry be held, but a significant volume of substantial objections makes this much more likely.

You and your supporters need to write to National Planning Casework Unit, copying your letter to your local authority.

Emphasise the extent of local feeling, stressing that it can only be properly expressed at a public inquiry.

But don't go overboard. If your case does not have substantial local support, or you don't expect to have the time and resources to present it properly, an inquiry may do more harm than good.

You may simply force the developers to put together a more robust case themselves, and at the same time demonstrate to the inspector that there is limited local opposition to the development. In such a case, an informal hearing would be more appropriate.

The pros and cons of a public inquiry

Pros

  • An inquiry is the most thorough way available to deal with issues of complexity
  • Strength of public feeling is better communicated at a public inquiry

The formality of an inquiry ensures that you will have access to the evidence from all parties concerned further in advance, which gives you a chance to prepare a strong case

Cons

  • A public inquiry is the most expensive of the appeals processes for all concerned
  • There will be more delay before a decision is made

The formality of the proceedings, and the likely involvement of lawyers, can make it an intimidating process. This partly explains why decisions taken in cases involving public inquiries are statistically more likely to go in favour of the applicant than decisions involving hearings or written representations.