On Wednesday 8th February Planning Director, Spencer Copping and Planner, Neal MacGregor met with Senior Managers from the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) with other planning professionals at the TCPA Head Offices in central London. The purpose of the meeting was to learn about the latest improvements being made by PINS to the Appeal system and how this will affect appellants and planning agents alike as well as provide feedback on the current service provided by PINS. We were also provided with a copy of the Customer Charter setting out their promises to appellants and expectations from those involved in the Appeal process.
The meeting focused heavily on the recent backlog of cases at PINS and the time it was taking to validate and handle planning appeals. In September 2016 PINS switched to a new validation system whereby the start date of an appeal is not created until the appropriate Planning Inspector has been chosen. The old validation system that was taking many months to move through the validation process has now been closed off with all Written Representations appeals now accounted for and only a handful of Hearings and Inquiries running on the old system.
The main challenge for PINS in the coming months is to shorten the gap between the submission of the appeal and issuing the start date letter. At present this stands between 4-8 weeks and in some cases even longer which a source of frustration for all involved. We were assured at the meeting that they were working towards narrowing the gap to 2 weeks which would be far more acceptable for all. We recommended that Local Authorities update their websites when appeals are lodged rather than when the start date letters are published. This will provide a further level of confirmation for appellants that while the validation process is taking a long time that the Council’s publicly acknowledge when appeals have been lodged.
Explanations were provided regarding the three main levels of Appeal Inspector that focus on the Householders/Written Representations appeals, Hearings and Inquiries. At the start of the validation process PINS will allocate Inspectors with the appropriate level of experience for the case at hand.
It looks like the access on required site visit are here to stay for the majority of Written Representations appeals. However, more guidance will be given on the time slots for appeal site visits as well as greater opportunity for appellants to request accompanied site visits where important issues need to be pointed out on site visits which sometimes can’t be picked up through the access only required process.
Other issues discussed at the meeting were the levels of customer service provided by PINS which again it was acknowledged that the Case Officer’s generally offer a very high of service.
Some changes were recommended to the PINS Appeal Casework Portal which will make it easier for professionals to find the information they need from the Appeal Search facility.
We have in turn updated our Planning Appeals factsheet following attendance at the meeting.
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