Mediation initiative bids to cut appeals

A mediation service to resolve planning disputes was launched this week by the RICS in response to a Killian-Pretty review proposal.

The service aims to target technical and design matters, third party concerns, section 106 issues, compulsory purchase orders and mineral planning.

Last year around 20,000 appeals costing some £30 million were recorded. The RICS maintained that providing trained mediators could help sort out disputes quickly and amicably by encouraging dialogue.

RICS dispute resolution services director Martin Burns said: "The planning system is clogged up with combative appeals, which often result in deadlock. We hope that this service will save time and improve transparency, speed and clarity."

Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Henry Brooke described the initiative as an excellent scheme that would be hugely welcomed.

But concerns were raised at the launch over the level of uptake. "The problem we face is the fear of change and lack of trust in this approach. It is our role to change this perception so people recognise the huge benefits it can bring," responded mediation expert John Sturrock QC.

Eversheds consultant Paul Winter added: "The thrill of winning an appeal is nothing compared with converting parties' hostile attitudes into a constructive approach."

The RICS offering comes ahead of the National Planning Forum and Planning Inspectorate's mediation pilot currently being set up (Planning, 7 August, p3).

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