The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is engaging on a ‘Pathfinder’ initiative with the Planning Inspectorate to review its current enforcement workload to identify which appeals could be referred to mediation.
The latest edition of the Ministry’s Planning Newsletter revealed that the Inspectorate was currently looking at all appeals which were scheduled for public inquiry or hearing raising grounds (a), (f) and (g), concerned gypsies & travellers, or were in respect of TPOs and High Hedges.
“For cases considered suitable the Inspectorate staff will contact relevant parties to provide information explaining the process and giving contact details for the mediation service which will be overseen by RICS and CIArb, organisations with extensive experience of managing specialist dispute resolution appointments,” it said.
“We expect that this initiative will be welcomed by the relevant planning authorities (and appellants), given the current backlog and increased time delays arising out of the pandemic.”
The newsletter added: “If, as is to be hoped, this initial ‘Pathfinder’ is successful then active steps may well be taken to expand the range and scope of planning matters that could be resolved or issue limited through mediation even before a statutory appeal is submitted.”
The newsletter also said that once pandemic restrictions were relaxed on 19 July there was the possibility that face-to-face appeal hearings and inquiries hosted locally could “once again play their part in safely progressing the Inspectorate’s casework, but now complemented by virtual participation where appropriate”.
It added that the Inspectorate would also be reverting to the pre-pandemic approach of local authorities organising hearings and inquiries. “This will help increase the number of decisions the Inspectorate can make.”