The benefit of hearings – planning appeals and development plans

planning application forms(8)Submitting a planning application is an investment of time, money and energy.  To have your proposal refused by a local planning authority can come as a shock, especially if you feel the reasons for refusal are unjustified.

If you are aggrieved by the decision of your LPA to refuse planning permission, or a decision was not forthcoming within the statutory timeframe, then you can appeal a planning decision.

There is a set timeframe to initiate an appeal; you usually have 6 months from the date on the decision notice (or 12 weeks if a householder application) in which to appeal. However, if you have received an enforcement notice then the deadline in which to appeal is much less, usually within 28 days of the notice.   

Routes to planning appeal:

If you decide to pursue the route of appeal, the planning appeal process provides three options:

  • Written Representation is the most common appeals method and is undertaken by a Planning Inspector who will reach a decision based on written submissions by both parties.   
  • Informal Hearings give the opportunity for oral evidence to be provided both for and against a planning scheme, it can help to encourage discussion and occurs in a far less formal setting than a public inquiry.
  • The third avenue is a Public Inquiry and this is usually pursued by the more controversial planning applications.  It is the most formal of the three methods.

The benefits of a hearing:

Whilst the majority of appeals are made by written representation, we have noticed a significantly greater chance of success when the appeal is considered via a hearing.

National statistics also seem to support this; of appeals undertaken in 2014/2015, only 31% were successful under Written Representation as opposed to 44% for Hearings.

Our positive experiences with hearings at appeal have led to a number of great successes; the opportunity to discuss the particular merits of a case can be conducive to both constructive negotiation with the Council and reaching a positive outcome.

Recent examples of this include negotiating a positive outcome for an enforcement appeal for a residential gym; and outline approval for 7 residential dwellings outside of the settlement boundary.

Hearings and local plan examinations:

Hearings also form a vital part of the process for development or local plan examinations.  

When representing landowners, we have found the process beneficial in bringing topics to the table for discussion, which otherwise might have been overlooked in a written document.

A prime example was our involvement with Maldon’s Development Plan review. Our engagement with the Planning Inspector through the hearing process had the following outcomes:  

  • The Planning Inspector recommended an extension to the settlement boundary of North Fambridge to take account of the two sites we were promoting for 105 houses and a new village centre. The Council had initially opposed this until the hearing, when they became more supportive.
  • We were able to demonstrate that the Council’s ‘reserve sites’ policy was in fact an unsound policy approach and that a new approach should be taken in the event of the delivery of the main allocations stalling.  
  • We raised serious doubts on the soundness of the housing market area applied by the Council. The Planning Inspector is still investigating this issue as a result.
  • We expressed concern over the delivery of the main allocations. The Planning Inspector is still investigating this issue and the Council has had to provide significant additional information to justify their position and amend their proposed stance and delivery timetable.

Hearings can provide an excellent platform for both sides to have their views heard.  It can encourage positive negotiation, engagement and discussion.

If you feel your planning proposal would benefit from a hearing, either through local plan representations or in response to a planning decision, then contact our team via and we will do our best to assist.