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12/07/2021

PINS falls short of ministerial targets for appeal decisions last year

Words: Laura Edgar
Decline / iStock-163210926

The number of appeals decided by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) in 2020/21 within the ministerial target declined in comparison with 2019/20, according to the appeals body’s latest annual report.

The Planning Inspectorate Annual Report 2020/21 shows that PINS determined 44 per cent of written representation appeals in England within 14 weeks of the start date, compared with 50 per cent a year earlier. The target is 80 per cent.

It determined 17 per cent of appeals subject to hearings within 14 weeks of the start date, compared with 20 per cent in 2019/20. The target is 80 per cent.

Last year was dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the inspectorate had to adapt to a different way of working. In May, housing secretary Robert Jenrick released a written ministerial statement that set out the policy that enabled all hearings and inquiries to be delivered virtually with only a few exceptions. The inspectorate says this was “innovative and ambitious” and it “kept casework moving”.

Back in 2019, a review into the inspectorate suggested a number of reforms to improve the service, such as introducing a new online portal for the submission of inquiry appeals and a strategy for recruiting more inspectors so that inquiries could be scheduled sooner. PINS, in response, began a small pilot scheme that saw a number of inquiry appeals held earlier.

According to the report, the inspectorate made 500 decisions in response to appeals in Wales. It says the pandemic affected its capacity to make decisions and as a result, the average decision time for planning appeals increased from 13 weeks in 2019/20 to 15 weeks.

Other statistics in the report include:

Appeals in England

  • 21 per cent of inquiries under the Rosewell review were decided within 24 weeks, down from 83 per cent a year earlier. The target was within 24 weeks.
  • 27 per cent of inquiries under the Rosewell review, against a target of within 26 weeks. In 2019/20 99 per cent were determined.
  • 36 per cent of householder appeals were decided within eight weeks of the start date, down from 58 per cent a year earlier.
  • 37 per cent of commercial appeals were determined within eight weeks of the start date, down from 40 per cent a year earlier.

Enforcement in England

  • 87 per cent of written representations were determined within 32 weeks of the start date. The target is 80 per cent. Last year, 94 per cent were determined within the statutory target.
  • 49 per cent of hearings were determined within 33 weeks of the start date, down from 64 per cent, against a target of 80 per cent.
  • 61 per cent of inquiries were determined within 43 weeks of the start date, up from 42 per cent a year earlier. The target was 80 per cent.

The inspectorate did meet all ministerial targets for determining Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) applications.

Sarah Richards, chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate, commented: “In 2019/20, we reported the successful roll-out of our performance recovery programme. We significantly improved our casework performance. We made substantial progress with implementing the recommendations of the Rosewell review, and the average time taken to decide appeal inquiries was nearly halved. We had planned to continue with this drive in 2020/21, but the Covid-19 pandemic impacted our plans.”

She explained that the pandemic had “dominated our thoughts and influenced our actions throughout last year”.

Over the next 12 months, the inspectorate plans to “reshape” its strategic plan in response to changing customer expectations, operating environment and legislative changes.

The Planning Inspectorate Annual Report 2020/21 can be found here on the UK Government website.

Image credit | iStock

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