Certificate of Lawfulness? Clarity of evidence is key

evidence timelinePlainview Planning recently stepped in at the last minute to assist an appellant who was out of their depth.

The appellant had submitted an appeal following a refusal of a Certificate of Lawfulness for 3 flats in Hackney. The basis of the appellant’s case was that the flats had been in use for in excess of 4 years.

The appellant had managed to collate together over 400 pages of evidence.

Certificate of Lawfulness appeal and public inquiry:

Whilst the evidence was weighty, the application and subsequent appeal lacked clarity. The fundamentals of the case were getting lost in the detail.

The appellant had also failed to grasp that many Certificate of Lawfulness appeals such as this, end up at public inquiry. This is to allow cross examination of evidence. More often than not both sides instruct barristers and the whole affair becomes quasi-judicial.

The public inquiry was scheduled to start in 6 days but the appellant had failed to prepare the necessary Proof of Evidence, Statement of Common Ground, nor instructed a barrister.

Negotiating to a positive solution:

Plainview arranged an emergency meeting. We reviewed the case, identified the Council’s concerns, and worked with the appellant to plug the gaps in the evidence. We then led “without prejudice” negotiations with the LPA.

Our position was that the case was strong but the appellant had been badly represented. We explained the fundamentals to the LPA and they eventually agreed that it was sensible for all parties to withdraw the appeal, cancel the public inquiry, and they invited us to resubmit a more coherent Certificate of Lawfulness.

At Plainview Planning we are always trying to seek cost effective solutions for our clients. Whilst we could have represented the appellant at the public inquiry, it made little sense to do so.

We would like to thank Landmark Chambers who were very responsive and had counsel on standby had our negotiations failed with the LPA and the Public Inquiry taken place. We would also like to thank the planning officer at Hackney who was pragmatic and empathetic to the predicament the appellant had found themselves in.