DCLG to go ahead with appeals shake-up, says chief inspector

The government is set to push ahead with plans to introduce a dedicated commercial appeals service as part of a shake-up of the appeals process, England's chief planning inspector has said.

Chief planning inspector Peter Burley
Chief planning inspector Peter Burley

Peter Burley, the chief planning inspector at the Planning Inspectorate (PINS), was speaking at the Royal Town Planning Institute's (RTPI) annual planning convention in central London yesterday.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) last November launched a consultation on plans to speed up the appeals process and make it more transparent.

Burley said: "Although the government hasn’t published consultation responses yet, they are generally supportive of what was being proposed.

"The most likely outcomes are that all appeal procedures will be faster in their timescales."

Burley said parties would have to submit evidence much sooner in the process.

He added: "We are introducing a new commercial appeals service alongside our household appeals service."

Under the government’s plans, PINS would make a decision on small-scale commercial developments in eight weeks.

Burley also clarified one of the measures in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states that local authorities that "persistently" under-deliver in the number of homes they build must add a 20 per cent buffer on top of their five-year housing land supply figure.

But the NPPF does not define "persistence", Burley said, adding: "It’s left to inspectors to determine what is persistent.

"Inspectors are looking back to the situation before the economic downturn to see if the authority was not delivering well when the economy was good and still not delivering well, that’s an indicator that you are a persistent under-deliverer.

"If you were delivering really well and on target pre the economic downturn and have had problems since, then that might be an indicator that you are not a persistent under-deliverer."

Burley also warned authorities to make sure the evidence in their local plan or to support an appeal is proportionate and not to "barrage" inspectors with information.

"Sometimes I think people think they can win their appeal or get their local plan adopted just by throwing everything they can in their drawer at the inspector in the hope that the inspector will find something in there to support their case."

Burley said that 87 per cent of applications are approved at a local level and it is "very rare" that PINS ever gets involved.

In 2012/13, he added, only 1.2 per cent of the 418,000 decisions made on applications were overturned by PINS.

Burley said 51 local plans had been submitted to the planning inspectorate since the NPPF was published last March, of which five had been found sound and four withdrawn.

john.geoghegan@haymarket.com


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