Former PINS chief calls for 'greater openness'

A former chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has voiced concern over the the extent to which the experience and knowledge of planning inspectors is under-utilised.

Parliament: Katrine Sporle gave evidence at committee session (picture by DncnH, Flickr)
Parliament: Katrine Sporle gave evidence at committee session (picture by DncnH, Flickr)

Katrine Sporle, who ran PINS from 2003 until 2011, shared her thoughts with members of the House of Lords’ National Policy for the Built Environment Committee.

At a hearing yesterday she said that while PINS should "never be a national planning authority" there was not enough openness and interaction with the development sector.

"I think there is an immense scope for influence for the Planning Inspectorate, but where there are sensitivities and suspicions, you get an awful lot of interference in allowing that expertise to come forward," she said.

"I can actually remember, as chief planning inspector, being watched very closely to make sure that I did not have meetings with a particular part of the development industry. At this time, it was particularly the wind farm industry."

Sporle did not specify whether the "interference" she referred to was on the part of politicians or central government officials, but said it was a "silly" negative influence.

"There is a need for an openness of dialogue," she said. "In terms of some of the very, very experienced inspectors, there’ s a whole wealth of expertise that they would share.

"[But] inspectors feel they must keep anonymous to a large degree.

"For whatever reason, there’s less emphasis on the learning from the inspecorate that could be shared."

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