The eagerly anticipated Rosewell review into planning appeal inquires has been submitted to the Sectary of State and subsequently published, concluding that the average time taken to decide a planning appeal by injury could be reduced from an average of 47 weeks to 26 weeks. The report recommends amongst other things, new targets, new appeal notification requirements along with substantial investment in the Planning Inspectorate to address issues relating to poor IT infrastructure and a lack of suitably qualified staff.
Commissioned in June 2018, the Rosewell review was always intended to identify ways to reduce the time taken to conclude a planning inquiry, particularly inquiries relating to major residential schemes, whilst ensuring that standards were maintained. Rosewell, an economist and National Infrastructure Commission commissioner, carried out an extensive programme of industry engagement to inform her recommendations, including a lengthy call for evidence.The report endorses new workable targets for the Planning Inspectorate including a target of 24 weeks from receipt to decision for 90% of inquiry appeals decided by an inspector; and of 30 weeks from receipt to decision for 100% of cases decided by the secretary of state. Further it is recognised that more thought needs to be given to inspector’s workloads, and recommends that enough time, post close of an inquiry should be afforded to allow for the inspector to write up the case in a timely manner.
The introduction of a new online portal, to be used for submitting inquiry appeals is also recommended, with a target date of December 2019 being set out for implementation. The report envisages that this should include new pro-formas for statements of case, which include fields for mandatory information along with strict word limits, where appropriate. Appellants should be required to advise the relevant local planning authority, along with the Inspectorate, of their intention to appeal a minimum of 10 working days before the appeal is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. Further to this the Inspectorate would be obligated to issue a start letter within five working days of receipt of the appeal and name the inspector who will conduct the inquiry.
Rosewell has made a number of recommendations for reform to ‘statements of common ground’, with the report concluding that in their current form, they are often too ambiguous and submitted too late to have any meaningful impact on the case. In response to these concerns, the report suggests focusing on a “topic-based” approach with more pro-forma areas, supported by guidance; and a much stronger focus on areas of disagreement in order to assist the inspector and parties focus their attention on the most important issues during the inquiry.
A review and improvement in case management is also recommended, including, but not limited to, clear directions from the inspector on the latter stages of preparation and details as to how the evidence will be examined along with early consideration of potential amendments to the scheme in question. The report also recommends greater use of ’round table’ discussions during the inquiry itself, and a topic-by-topic based approach to the consideration of evidence.
At central government level, the report recommends that the secretary of state and Communities Department continue to review their approach to the recovery of appeals and called-in applications and seek to effectively engage with the Planning Inspectorate to discuss new policy and its wider implications. The review suggests that there may be some scope for “simple” changes to be introduced, which could “address points of unnecessary concern or ambiguity”.