PREPARING FOR THE LOCAL PLAN INQUIRY
Once the Deposit period has ended and your representations have been made there is likely to be a period of several months before you hear anything further.
The Council will now consider all the objections, report them to committee and decide whether they wish to alter the Plan in any way.
The Council may publish proposed changes, which you should check to see if they are seeking to modify the Plan in a way that you can now support, or maintain and/or amend your original objection.
You will eventually receive a letter from the Local Authority notifying you of the dates set for a Pre Inquiry Meeting.
This is a public meeting arranged by the Council for you to attend in order to hear how the Local Plan is to be progressed through the Inquiry stage.
The Inspector, appointed by the Secretary of State, will chair the meeting and explain the formal procedures. He will introduce the appointed Programme Officer and any assistants that he may be using during the Inquiry.
The Council will set out a number of legal and practical issues, which they are obliged to do. A Solicitor or Barrister will normally represent them.
The Programme Officer is your point of contact from now on and you can contact him at any time if you need advice or assistance concerning the Inquiry process.
This meeting will also discuss timetabling of objectors, practical issues such as the venue(s) for the Inquiry, how long it is likely to run for and other administrative matters.
The Inspector may issue requests for further information from the Council and will explain how he intends to conduct the Inquiry.
If you are unable to attend this meeting, ensure that the Programme Officer knows and he will send a copy of the minutes taken so that you know what was said.
Shortly after this meeting the Programme Officer will circulate his initial draft timetable to all objectors (and others) and will ask you to confirm whether you wish to continue with your objection and if you wish to be heard at the inquiry or make written submissions. You may feel it is no longer necessary to appear and that a written statement will suffice. Equally you may wish to appear in order to explain your objection in person.
The Inspector treats all representations, however submitted, with equal weight. Appearing at the Inquiry does not mean that your objection is any more important than one submitted as a written representation. However, you have a right to be heard in public and it may be beneficial to appear in complex cases, or where you wish to test the Council on their evidence.
If you intend appearing at the Inquiry you should ensure that the dates in the timetable are acceptable. The Programme Officer will do his best to fit you in at a time convenient to you. It is your responsibility to keep in touch with the Programme Officer as the Inquiry proceeds to ensure your appearance dates or times have not altered.
The Inspector will encourage people with similar objections to act as a group rather than hear the same arguments over and over again.
The Pre-Inquiry Meeting will almost certainly specify the dates by which any supporting information, or proofs of evidence, should be submitted to the Council. This is so that the Council may consider your evidence and prepare their response in good time before you appear.
The planning department will have already commented on your objection in their report to committee, so you will have a fair idea of their views. They may also have prepared standard Proofs on their own behalf dealing with general topics that are common to many objections. You should obtain these as soon as possible to help you with your case.
The proof of evidence is intended to be a concise transcript of the evidence you wish to present to the Inspector. At the Inquiry proofs will be taken as read, but you may highlight particular issues to make your point. The Inspector will usually allow you to elaborate upon the evidence at the Inquiry, but all main points and arguments should be included in the Proof of Evidence. The Inspector may not accept new evidence at the Inquiry.
If you have submitted multiple objections then you will need to submit one proof for each objection. The required format will be explained at the Pre Inquiry Meeting.
Long proofs should be summarised for use at the Inquiry and or the Inspector to refer back to at a later date.
A SIMPLE FORMAT
1 The first page should contain the Objector Number for your particular objection and details of the policy or other part of the Plan you are objecting to.
2 You should set out your name and any relevant qualifications and briefly outline why you are objecting to the particular matter.
3 Explain any accompanying evidence and why you think the Council should alter the Plan. What harm will the policy cause? Could it be worded better or altered to address your concerns.
4 Set out if you can, ways in which you think the Plan could be usefully altered to address your particular objection. Make suggestions. Do not just say 'I donít like it'. This will not really help you. The Inspector is looking to see whether you have a good case for changing the Plan.
5 Be positive on those aspects of the Plan that you support in relation to your particular objection. This will help the Inspector in judging the balance to be struck in general. Remember, others may also be objecting, but in different ways.
6 Include in a separate Appendix any copies of plans, documents, photographs etc which illustrate your point. Make sure that the Objector Reference Number is clearly presented on all your submissions.