The Most Appealing Choice: What planning appeal route should you take?
Nobody wants to have to lodge a planning appeal. But sometimes, it is unavoidable. Whether a Local Authority has dreamt up some unfair reason for refusal, or simply hasn't determined the application in the time they should have done, an appeal can be the only option.
But which appeal route should you take? The right decision should strike a balance between time, cost and ulitmately securing permission. Here's our quick guide on how to choose.
There are three procedures by which an appeal can be determined:
- Written representations;
- Hearings; and,
The choice depends on the reason(s) for refusal, the nature of the case and the complexity of issues surrounding this. Other factors which are also important to consider are the timescales involved and the different costs of the procedures.
Written representations allow the most simple appeals to be dealt with quickly. They should be used where the issues are not complex or do not require further questioning by the Inspector. As well as speed, another benefit of this procedure is that it's the cheapest route - the time involved is relatively short and fewer people are required to input.
As part of the process the appellant and the Council each submit written statements outlining their case. The Inspector uses these statements and other relevant evidence to make a decision. No further discussion takes place between the parties.
Therefore, this route is most suitable for small scale developments, such as minor works or alterations and small scale housing developments. In these cases, the issues raised or the grounds of appeal can usually be clearly understood from the appeal documents, and won't need further explanation.
Hearings are suitable for any appeals for which it is considered that the Inspector is likely to need either to test the evidence he is presented with by questioning or to clarify matters.
Hearings are effectively a discussion of the issues chaired by the Inspector with no opportunity for the parties to cross examine each other and their witnesses. Consequently, they do not always require input from a legal representative although it is becoming increasingly common. They do give the Inspector chance to directly question both parties to fully understand their respective cases before reaching a final decision.
Hearings usually take place within one day or less, and are most suited to appeals where there has been little public interest in an application but the issues are relatively complex. The cost of hearings is greater than for an appeal determined by written representations because of the extra time involved, but still less than an Inquiry.
The inquiry procedure is the most formal of the options available. It should be chosen where the issues relating to the case and the grounds of appeal are complex and where the parties want to challenge each other's positions.
Although not a court of law, proceedings are often held in a relatively formal setting, They typically involve the use of expert witnesses who are normally subject to cross examination. Consequently, the expertise of an advocate is often needed to ensure the points of the case are fully addressed. As many expert witnesses as are required can be called by both parties to deal with the issues so an Inquiry can last a number of days.
Inquiries present the highest cost to the appellant because of the number of people and the lengthy timescales involved.
So which should I choose?
The answer really depends on how complicated the case is. Where issues are easy to explain in writing then written representations could well be the answer. But if the case is more complicated and you want the opportunity to expose the flaws in the Council's position, then an Inquiry might be the best option.