Clockwise from top left: Constanze Bell, Mat Jones, Philip Robson and Nigel Cussen with, inset, Jonathan Easton.

Member Article

Experts team up to test record remote public enquiry

Planning experts have taken part in a remote planning appeal exercise, exploring the practical and procedural implications of continuing to work ‘remotely’ during the Covid-19 crisis.

Barristers Jonathan Easton, Constanze Bell and Philip Robson from the Kings Chambers Planning Team ran the short mock inquiry over Microsoft Teams, joined by Mat Jones, Senior Director at Turley as witness for the local planning authority and Nigel Cussen, Senior Planning Director at Pegasus Group as witness for the appellant.

Johnathan Easton said: “There has been much speculation in the planning press as to how planning inquiries and hearings can take place during this time of national crisis.

“Kings have strongly supported the Planning and Environment Bar Association’s efforts to engage with the Planning Inspectorate to encourage the adoption of modern video technologies to enable remote inquiries and hearings to take place.”

The exercise was primarily to assess the practicality of cross examination, and a short report was produced by those taking part pinpointing the lessons learned.

Nigel Cusson said: “Clearly the implications for remote working during this epidemic are huge, including within our industry: without it the entire planning system will grind to a halt.

“But if councils are able to hold planning committee meetings remotely, and inquiries are able to continue, we can mitigate the impact and ensure that as soon as the country gets back to ‘normal’ development can bounce straight back without being impeded by a planning backlog.”

The report produced by those taking part concluded: “The mock inquiry was a helpful experience and we consider the move to remote appeals, including examination of witnesses, is a practical and viable option in order to maintain casework during the coronavirus restrictions and until in-person appeals are able to resume.”

Pegasus Group is a national consultancy with 14 offices across UK and Ireland offering extensive experience across all sectors of the development industry including planning, design, environment, economics and heritage.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sam Taylor .

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