Readers will be aware that the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has urged councils and the planning inspectorate to make more use of digital technology during the current lockdown to ensure that the planning process continues to operate effectively in order to support economic recovery. Here on the Blog we have been looking out for procedural changes which might achieve this objective.
In a recent appeal case (DCS Number 400-026-026) we were interested to note the following paragraph:
“In response to travel restrictions currently in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic I consider that this appeal can be determined without the need for a physical site visit. This is because I have been able to reach a decision based on the information already available, supplemented by additional photographic evidence supplied by the appellant and confirmed as being appropriate and representative by the Council, together with the publicly available online resource, Google Street View. Both the appellant and the Council were given an opportunity to provide comments on this approach and I have taken any responses into account.”
This appeal related to the refusal of planning permission for a bungalow at the end of a close in west Sussex. The inspector found that the proposal would appear cramped and at odds with the surrounding character and appearance of the area. Had he thought differently, however, we wonder if he would have had sufficient confidence in the adequacy of the information before him to allow the appeal without the benefit of a site visit.
It will be interesting to keep track of the proportion of appeals allowed and dismissed under the new procedures and whether an inclination towards caution will result in an increase in the number of appeals dismissed.
Section 5.34 of DCP Online covers the appeal process.