Appealing Against The Decision
Appealing Against The Decision
Ron Tate (Town Planner) gives expert video advice on: In what circumstances can I appeal against the decision?; Can I challenge an appeal decision? and more...
In what circumstances can I appeal against the decision?
If an applicant isn't happy about the decision, they have a right to appeal. They could appeal simply on the basis that, even if they've been given permission, they're not entirely happy that the conditions are relevant to what they're doing or onerous to comply with, then they may well be able to appeal those conditions to try and get them set aside. The most common form of appeal is where the authority has decided to refuse the application, and you choose to fight that further through an independent process by lodging an appeal.
To whom do I appeal?
If an applicant wants to lodge an appeal, there is an independent body called the Planning Inspectors. They have offices in Bristol, and they are the people who appoint independent inspectors, usually people with an expertise in the area that's relevant to the particular nature of the planning application. And you can apply on forms that are available through the Planning Portal, and submit those to the office in Bristol.
What is the deadline for appeal?
Once a decision has been reached, an applicant, if they're not happy about that, has a right to appeal. They might not be happy about planning conditions that have been attached to a planning consent. They have a right to appeal, often on the grounds that it might be irrelevant to what they're doing or in terms of having to comply with them in relation to their particular proposal. They need to do that by approaching the planning inspector. A more frequent case of appeal is where an applicant doesn't like the refusal, and they've got some good grounds that they feel ought to be protested by an independent inspector. The independent inspector is based Bristol and they have an application form that appears on the planning form.
What are 'written representations'?
There are several types of appeal that you could pursue. The most common is to go forward with what's called a 'written representations' appeal. This means that the applicant, who then becomes the appellant, sets out their case in writing. The authority look at that. They set out their case in writing. Each party has an opportunity to comment on the other's case and then an administrator, or the planning inspector, gathers that information together and allocates it to a planning inspector that will come to the site and have a look. They will not have a discussion with either party, but more often than not both parties are at the site inspection. And then up to five weeks later a decision is reached and both parties are informed of what the inspectors' decision is. That is the most common type of appeal and it's the simplest type. One of the reasons why there's a large volume of applications for written representations, it tends to be that area where if people are just taking a chance on the possibility of getting a planning permission, they are more likely to go down that route. So not only has it got the most number of appeals, but it probably has the most number of appeals that are not approved. But it's because of that distortion of the written representation process.
How does an informal hearing work?
The second form of appeal is to ask for an informal hearing. So you're not trying to set out your case in writing. Both the local planning authority and the appellant prepare their arguments and come and sit in front of the planning inspector. And they have an informal dialogue about the nature and what the issues are. There is also an opportunity for third parties who might see that they want to support or oppose that proposal, to sit at the same table and take part in the same discussions. That is proving quite popular. One of the reasons for that is if the appellant feels that the local planning authority disadvantaged them in some way, and forced them to an appeal when they shouldn't have done, they can apply for costs, and the inspector will then have to decide whether the authority has been reasonable or not. And you can see circumstances arise where perhaps, the planning officer has made one recommendation that's not been listened to, maybe the politicians have been driven by weighing in their decision nominative or planning considerations that they shouldn't have done, and therefore the appellant goes down the hearing route in order to try to recoup some of their costs of being delayed in getting their proposals under way.
What is a public inquiry or formal hearing?
The third type of planning appeal is where a public inquiry is held. This is where both parties, the local planning authority and the appellate, will tend to employ an advocate to make their case. They will prepare a series of expert witnesses, the case officer, perhaps a highways engineer on behalf of the local authority, even bringing in statutory consultee's if they've been a fundamental part of the deliberations to give evidence to the planning inspector, and the appellate will do the same. They'll bring their team of experts in, and they may well employ a barrister on both sides to take people through their proofs of evidence, which have been prepared in advance and present the arguments to the inspector, so they tend to be the more complicated ones. Third parties can still appear at public inquiries, and the inspector will give them an opportunity of asking questions of both parties and perhaps making a statement of their own case.
Where can I go for help with my appeal?
If you are interested in making a plan Appeal as an applicant, it may be that you submitted the application yourself, but feel that taking on an Appeal is one step too far. Then, there are planning consultants -small, medium, large companies offering services in the private sector- that you might want to go and get advice from or even engage to submit the Appeal on your behalf. If you are a third party, and you are interested in making representations to an Appeal, it will depend upon whether it is by hearing public inquiry or written representations, but each of those makes its own arrangements and will notify people who made representations at the time the application was considered that an Appeal is going to be held and give you the details how you can engage with that. If you happen to be a group of local residents with very little in the way of resources to put your arguments together, there is an organization called "Planning Aid". These are planners acting in the voluntary capacity usually in their spare time coordinated by administrators in different regions, and supported by money from central government to provide help and advice. You will find contact details for "Planning Aid" at the local planning department services and on the planning portal website. They may be in position to help, as well.
Can I challenge an appeal decision?
If you're not happy when the appeal decision is made, particularly if it's a refusal of consent, if you're the appellate the only basis on which you can challenge the inspector's findings is if they have erred in law and you would need to take a challenge to the high court. If you're a third party, and maybe the inspector's found in favor of the application, and you, as a third party were objecting, you have no rights to challenge the decision apart from if you believe that the inspector misdirected themselves. Then you could take up a point of law in a high court.