Whilst the ‘written representations’ procedure is the most common type of appeal, alternative processes do exist and these are principally either a Hearing or a Public Inquiry. Hearings and Public Inquiries give rise to significant additional costs and are rarely appropriate for individual home owners. In practice, these are not optional processes for you as applicant, because the Planning Inspectorate will decide to opt for the written representations method unless either the Council or you as appellant submit very sound justification explaining why a hearing is needed. The main reason why a hearing or public inquiry would be required would be if the facts of the case are in dispute, such as the length of time that a use or a building has existed.
These appeal processes are similar to the Written Representations process in terms of the documentation that needs to be provided. The timetable for the appeal will be different however and this is, in essence, to allow for the attendees at hearings and public enquiries to be fully informed before the meeting.
A benefit of these processes is that they provide opportunities for presentation and discussion of the evidence from both the Council and the appellant and 3rd party expert witnesses can be invited. Thus, your credibility as appellant and the positive aspects of a project can be promoted to best effect.
The informal hearing takes the form of a round the table discussion led by the Inspector whereas the format of a Public Inquiry is more adversarial. The timeframe for appeals via these processes can be found in published guidance available on the Planning Portal. The whole process may take a little longer than the written representations format, especially because a date has to be set for the hearing, which must be attended by all parties.
The Informal Hearing process is useful where there are particular issues that cannot be succinctly explained or clarified in writing or perhaps where there are a large number of issues to address, some of which may be more important than others. It enables the Inspector to ask direct questions to all parties, which may also include third parties such as the occupiers of neighbouring properties or local Councillors.
Legal representation is not allowed, although it strongly advised to have a professional planning representative, such as Get Planning and Architecture, to present your case.
A hearing will normally take a half day or whole day, and will be followed by a site visit by the Inspector with all interested parties in attendance. A decision is not made on the day but normally follows in writing a few weeks later.
This is the most formal appeal procedure and involves both written and oral evidence, with opportunities for the cross examination of individuals. It is particularly useful where professional evidence is required, for example to demonstrate that highway safety will not be compromised by your development.
The principal parties are normally represented by an advocate (such as a barrister or a solicitor) who can call expert witnesses to give evidence and also cross-examine the Council representatives. The Inspector will lead the Inquiry and listen to the responses given to any cross examination, in addition to considering the written evidence provided.
The Inquiry may only take one day, although significant preparation will be required. Some Inquiries may go on considerable longer and several days or even weeks is not uncommon.
At some point in the Inquiry a site visit will be made. Again, a final decision is not made on the day but normally follows in writing a few weeks later.