A PINS spokesman said that Richards’ start date has yet to be confirmed, but added that she is likely to take over as the agency’s chief executive in the spring, with Steve Quartermain remaining in post as acting chief executive until the handover.
Richards, a former columnist for Planning, has held her post at Slough Borough Council since 2013.
Her previous roles include head of the Planning Advisory Service, which she left in 2009 to join Essex County Council as director for sustainable environment and enterprise and head of strategic commissioning.
Prior to joining the the Planning Advisory Service, Richards was director of planning for Test Valley Borough Council.
Richards said: "I am very much looking forward to joining PINS as the new chief executive. I know what an important job the Inspectorate plays in upholding a fair planning system, helping the country meet its future infrastructure needs and supporting communities shape where they live."
The government announced in August that Quartermain – the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)’s chief planner - would take over as acting PINS chief executive after former chief executive Simon Ridley took up a role at the DCLG as director-general for decentralisation and growth.