Top 10 tips for preparing for an appeal inquiry
The inquiry procedure is the most formal of the appeal procedures and is often used for the most complicated of appeals, and to allow thorough examination of witnesses. The formal procedure of inquires can make the process seem daunting, however, these simple tips can lead you through the process, from the preparation of supporting documents to appearing at inquiries as a witness.
1. Instruction of a barrister (Counsel)
The earlier a barrister is instructed to assist with a planning appeal the better. The advice they provide can be invaluable to the preparation of documents and the preparation of evidence for the forthcoming inquiry.
2. Statement of Common Ground
The preparation of the Statement of Common Ground should commence soon after submission of the appeal. The content should be agreed, where possible with the Council during the appeal process prior to the start of the inquiry. All matters which can be agreed upon by both parties should be included within the document, no matter how minor they may seem and this is also an opportunity to identify the areas of dispute which remain between the parties and will therefore be addressed within Proofs of Evidence and at the inquiry.
3. Section 106 Agreement
The S106 contributions to be made should the appeal be allowed should be agreed, wherever possible with the Council during the appeal process. As with the Statement of Common Ground, it is recommended that work commences on this document as soon as possible and that constant dialogue with the Council is maintained, as it can prove difficult to agree the agreement’s details. A signed S106 should be taken to the inquiry or submitted to the Inspector beforehand; where this is not considered to be possible due to an inability of parties to agree then a Unilateral Undertaking should be prepared and presented to the Inspector.
4. Manage your time
It is important that all interested parties, including clients, landowners and barristers are provided with sufficient time to review Proofs of Evidence prior to submission. The content of the Proofs will form the basis of the discussion at the inquiry and therefore it is imperative that the arguments set out are fully supported and defendable.
5. Appeals and decisions
No matter what type of development is the subject of an appeal, no matter how big or small, it is beneficial to keep an eye out for recent appeal decisions and inspector’s reports on similar matters. This can provide support for arguments being made and also assist in the preparation of supporting documents.
6. Review opposing Proofs of Evidence
Following the submission of Proofs to the Planning Inspectorate and the Council it is important that opposing proofs are reviewed and the arguments being put forward fully understood. It may be necessary, for example if new evidence has been provided, to prepare a rebuttal to the Council’s Proof. Therefore all Proofs should be carefully reviewed and where necessary a response prepared as soon as possible to allow the Inspector sufficient time to consider.
7. Be prepared
If appearing as a witness during the Inquiry it is necessary to ensure you know your own Proof in detail, this will be the evidence that you are questioned on by the opposing barrister. You must also know the Council’s proof and where relevant any proofs of other witnesses to which you may have referred to within your own proof – you may be questioned on any matter within these.
8. Discuss with your barrister
Prior to giving your evidence-in-chief, discuss with your barrister the points they intend to discuss with you whilst on the stand. This will ensure that no questions come as a surprise and your will be able to confidently and accurately answer questions. A strong evidence-in-chief will set up the argument you are making.
9. Listen to the other party’s witnesses
By listening to the other party’s witnesses this will give an indication of the matters which may be raised during your evidence, allowing time to prepare and where necessary allow the barristers sufficient opportunity to provide a response should new evidence be put forward.
10. Keep to the programme timetable
At the start of the appeal process the Planning Inspectorate will provide a programme timetable setting out the dates different documents should be submitted and confirm dates the inquiry will sit. It is important to stick to this to ensure that delays in the appeal process are not incurred and to ensure that matters are not still being address during the inquiry in front of the Inspector which should have been dealt with in advance.
BONUS TIP: Discuss your chances at appeal early
In some cases, where a refusal is the expected outcome it is accepted that there is a strong possibility that an appeal may be required to follow. Consideration should be given to the prospects of success at appeal. Where this is the case the appeal process should be considered early, allowing sufficient time to consider the arguments to be made and whether one appeal process is more suitable than another. Discussing an appeal proposal with a planning consultant early on can increase the prospects of success. Should you wish to discuss any future appeals or applications with NJL please do not hesitate to contact us.
Images used courtesy of Abee5 and Sebastien Wiertz on Flickr