We know that residents who wish to oppose a development in their local area can find the prospect of presenting their case at a hearing or inquiry intimidating. An inspector dealing with a proposal for a mixed use scheme in Kent (DCS Number 200-004-624) has usefully explained the extent to which an inspector is able to assist unrepresented parties as follows:
“Interested parties who took part in the Hearing, none of whom were represented, mentioned concern in passing about ‘equality of arms’, given the number of witnesses fielded by the appellant, who was represented at the Hearing by Queen’s Counsel. I am mindful, in this regard, of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which seeks to ensure that people have an equal opportunity to put their case. However, it is not uncommon for parties to come to events such as this with varying levels of representation. Whilst individuals often appear unrepresented, Rule 9(3) of The Town and Country Planning (Hearings Procedure) (England) Rules 2000 allows that a person who is entitled to appear may be represented by another person. This can be a solicitor or barrister. Whilst not a common occurrence, it is certainly not unusual. Being very aware of the duties imposed on me as the appointed Inspector, in particular the duty to ensure that the Hearing was conducted fairly and that all participants were afforded the opportunity to present their cases whilst observing the rules that govern the conduct of such events, I assisted those opposing the development to present their cases, so far as I was able within the scope of the powers afforded to me and within the constraints of my own impartiality, having regard to the need to run proceedings as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
As this gives chapter and verse it might be an idea to tuck it away somewhere safe.
The following DCP chapter is relevant: 5.34