The new normal?

We have seen a good number of appeal cases relating to lawful development certificates where inspectors have issued decisions without the benefit of a site visit. This might be unsurprising, given that such appeals turn on the facts of the case rather than matters of planning judgement. In a new development, we now have an example of a section 78 appeal which the inspector has decided without a site visit (DCS Number 400-025-725).

This case concerns the conversion of a flat in a south London local centre to two flats, together with a dormer extension at the rear. Under the heading of Preliminary Matters the inspector stated:

“In light of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the consequent travel limitations, and following consideration of the grounds of appeal and the submitted evidence, my view is that this appeal could, exceptionally, be determined without the need for a site visit. I sought the views of the main parties and no objections to this approach were received within the specified timescales.”

The inspector identified the main issue as the effect on car parking provision in the area. No car parking would be provided for the flats. Having found that the site was in an area which had poor public transport accessibility and where public car parking provision was restricted, he dismissed the appeal.

It strikes us that the inspector was on fairly safe ground with this one; matters of parking provision tend to be fairly factual. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if this case has been treated exceptionally or whether no site visit becomes the new normal.

Section 5.34 of DCP Online covers the appeal process.