Planning Law solicitor, Steven Hopkins, discusses.
On 25th March 2020 The Planning Inspectorate (“PINS”) issued a statement on the impact that the Government’s measures for tackling Covid-19 would have on planning appeals. The keys points from PINS statement are:
As hearings and Inquiries are public events PINS must ensure fairness for all parties, especially third parties. In some cases, the Inspector might invite the parties to consider whether the case can be decided on the basis of written submissions following questions that she or he might raise.
The practical impact on planning appeals
Following the issuing of the statement, I myself experienced a number of site inspections being cancelled, a hearing being cancelled, and the listing of a Public Inquiry being delayed. In practice, the likely impact on the appeal process will be that:
Will this lead to an opportunity to modernise the appeal process?
In its statement PINS makes specific mention of considering whether it might be feasible to utilise technological solutions to enable events to proceed.
It is clear from the government’s advice that the current pandemic will not be over in a few weeks. At best it will suppress the normal functioning of society for many months. Michael Harman’s article on the impact on the Courts outlines the Lord Chief Justice’s approach that we all need to recognise that we will be using technology to conduct business “Otherwise, there will be no [court] hearings and access to justice will become a mirage”.
The Planning Court and the Court of Appeal has already embraced this technology with applications already being conducted by telephone and “Skype”. Further, as mentioned in Jo Lilliott’s article, the Coronavirus Act s78 makes provisions for Planning Committee meetings to be conducted by remote conferencing.
Therefore, we will soon be in a situation where the decisions under challenge to the PINS are from decision makers that are utilising technological solutions, and the appeals and applications arising from PINS decisions are dealt with by Courts also embracing that technology. PINS will be under increasing pressure to follow suit.
PINS is intending to run a pilot scheme of a small number of less complex Inquiries by remote conferencing. There is no detail on this as yet.
Posted 08/04/2020 by:
Partner and Head of Planning & Development Team
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