A number of our clients have been asking whether planning appeals are still being processed and determined during the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, the planning inspectorate (the government agency that runs the appeal system) has been functioning rather well. Its case officers are working from home, but generally keeping on top of their admin functions.
Hearing and public inquiries have been postponed, but this does not really affect our casework since most appeals for householder extensions are decided by 'written representations' - i.e. they are decided by written reports and do not go to a hearing or an inquiry.
Site visits were also put on hold at the end of March when we went into lockdown and this has caused something to a backlog of smaller appeals to build up. As of mid May, the inspectorate has started carrying out site visits where it is not necessary to enter the site (i.e. where the relevant part of the property can be viewed from the street) or if the appellant (the homeowner) provided access to the rear garden without the inspector needing to meet residents or to walk through the building.
Other, accompanied site visits will have to wait - it is not clear when these will restart.
The inspectorate is also exploring new technology, including the possibility of carrying out inquiries and hearings remotely using video conferencing.
The planning consultants at easyappeals.co.uk are impressed by the way the planning inspectorate has adapted to these very difficult circumstances. We are still able to submit our appeals online and the appeals are still being validated quickly and efficiently. Case officers are working and communicating well.
The message for our clients and for other appellants is that there is no need to delay appeals and that, though they may take a little longer than usual, the system has held up and appeals are progressing. If you have spent lockdown dreaming of a new extension, now is the time to apply. And if you are refused planning permission, talk to us about an appeal!
For more information on how the planning inspectorate is working through the crisis, visit their website, here.