PINS data reveals longer timescales for planning appeals by hearing and in writing

Timescales for handling appeals by hearings and written representations have lengthened since the start of the year, new data published by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) shows.

Planning Inspectorate: appeals handling times causes sector concern
Planning Inspectorate: appeals handling times causes sector concern

The updated timescales for appeal handling, published by PINS yesterday, show that during last month, written representations appeals took on average 28 weeks from a valid appeal being received by PINS to a decision being issued. This is up from 24 weeks in February’s figures.

Appeals decided by hearings took 40 weeks from receipt of a valid appeal to a decision, up from 37 weeks in February.

However, the equivalent figure for inquiries showed an improvement on February’s figures - down from 47 to 43 weeks.

PINS also last week published figures showing updated appeal timescales broken down by stages.

It showed that inquiry appeals took six weeks from the receipt of the appeal to the ‘start’ (where an inspector is appointed), then 34 weeks from ‘start’ to the ‘event’ (where submission of written evidence or a site visit takes place or a hearing opens) and then a further 13 weeks from the ‘event’ to a final decision being issued.

The figures also showed that it took on average 13 weeks from receipt of written representation appeals to the ‘start’, with an equivalent figure of 20 weeks for hearings appeals.

A PINS spokesman said the figures showing average timescales broken down by stages did not equate to the total average handling times because they were calculated separately. 

Simon Ricketts, partner at law firm Town Legal, said: "When you look at the figures broken down stage by stage, it seems to me that inquiries are being prioritised in terms of identifying an inspector and taking the necessary steps to start the process post validation.

"Appeals that go by written representations and hearings are languishing for over three months before the appeal process starts - which remains unacceptable."

A spokesman for PINS said: "We are very clear about the challenges we face in terms of meeting our performance targets and improving appeal handling times.

"We have already seen improvements in the handling times of some types of appeals.

"More than 24,000 appeals were submitted in the last 12 months and this challenge from the demand for our work is overshadowed by the challenge of recruiting sufficient numbers of inspectors.

"We are confident in seeing further improvements over the next 12 months through the changes we’re making to the way we work and by increasing recruitment.

"We are currently procuring around 100 non-salaried inspectors (NSIs) as well as offering a fantastic range of exciting opportunities that include not only traditional level inspector entry but also direct recruitment at more senior level posts as well as opportunities at a brand new level of planning appeals officer."

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