A written inquiry

As we begin to understand the shape that the new normal might take for the planning profession, it is interesting to read an inspector’s explanation of how he undertook a planning inquiry relating to an outline proposal for residential development in Essex (DCS Number 200-009-570) without the usual gathering of all the main and interested parties in a council office/village hall/community centre:

“The appeal was due to be considered at a public inquiry, scheduled for 9-12 June 2020. In the light of the restrictions brought in to combat Covid-19, an oral event could not be held at that time. As a result, with the agreement of the Council and the appellants, the inquiry was converted to a written format. The format included an exchange of proofs of evidence, followed by written rebuttals, then a series of written Inspector’s Questions to the parties, followed by Further Questions, and written closing submissions. This procedure was completed, and the inquiry was closed, on 24 July 2020.

In addition to the public consultation carried out at the application and appeal stages, members of the public were enabled to view copies of the proofs and rebuttals on the Council’s website, and invited to make further comments on these. Over 200 further responses were received from members of the public and others during this further consultation. I have taken into account all of the submissions received at each of these stages. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that all those who would have been likely to wish to attend the inquiry have had adequate opportunities to make their views known, and consequently that the procedure adopted has been fair to all parties.”

Perhaps this provides a template for the majority of inquiries in the future.

Section 5.34 of DCP Online covers the appeal process.