Most planning appeals are dealt with through written representations, but planning appeals involving large and complex development schemes tend to be decided after either a Hearing or a Public Inquiry.
A Hearing is a formal and structured discussion between the parties, led by the Inspector (who decides the appeal). The issues will usually be worked through on a topic by topic basis and the Inspector will ask parties and their representatives to contribute to the discussion. Whilst forensic skills are less evident at hearings than inquiries, there is plenty of opportunity for lawyers who understand planning to contribute to discussion of this kind, and our training in analysis, and our overview of planning issues, can often play an important part in the successful presentation of an appeal. Examples of successful appeals decided after Hearings can be found here:
An Inquiry is a more formal procedure. The witnesses who give evidence will have to prepare statements of evidence and they will be cross examined by the advocates before formal legal submissions are presented to the Inspector. It is common for there to be a great deal more documentation for this kind of procedure, and for the issues to be more complex than for hearings. Inquiry procedures require skilled advocacy to present your case in the most persuasive way possible, so as to give your appeal the best chance of success.
We have extensive experience in conducting appeals by both Hearings and Public Inquiries. Niall Blackie, who is head of the Planning Team, is a Solicitor Advocate who has spent 30 years working under both Inquiry and Hearing procedures.
In addition to appeal Hearings and Public Inquiries, we also have extensive experience in both launching and defending High Court challenges (such as ‘s288 Appeals’ and Judicial Reviews). S288 Appeals can occur when an appeal has been decided and one side or the other think that the Inspector’s decision is legally flawed. Judicial reviews can occur when for example an interested third party (e.g. a neighbour) considers that a local authority has made a legal error in deciding to grant planning approval. We have acted for Claimants and Defendants, as well as interested parties in these types of proceedings and in the High Court, and the Court of Appeal.
The cost, and risk, of Court proceedings is considerable and we give straightforward advice to our clients as to the likelihood of success of challenging a planning decision and as to the potential costs, and timescales involved in the processes. A key problem is speed of action; we are used to having to take on these cases with the short time frames that are inevitable, and to giving robust and clear advice on an urgent basis.