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02/01/2014

A pat on the back for PINS

For the sake of accountability all written material on an application should be available to all

At a recent meeting of the National Infrastructure Planning Association Legislation and Guidance Working Group, one of the topics was the amount of written information that accompanies applications under the Planning Act 2008, and how this is accessible by local communities.
It is good for openness  and accountability that all written material on an application is made available to everyone. This has not been the case with previous regimes.
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has a tough job to present large amounts of information in a way that makes it easy to find. At the last count, the Thames Tideway Tunnel page contained 2,387 documents. A large application, it is bound to generate a large amount of material. There’ll be a yottabyte of information there by the time we’re finished.
The PINS website has improved a lot since a year ago, when finding new documents was like playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ The best new feature is the ‘date loaded’ column and the right-hand ‘search’ tab is your new best friend, effectively solving the new document finding problem. 
But there is still work to do. When loading a series of new documents, load them in a logical order or include a ‘display order’ attribute to show them nicely. Secondly, when a large document is split up, there needs to be some sort of index.
Thirdly, please check spelling: it’s harder to find things when there are typos. I appreciate that massive amounts of material are being loaded and time is probably more important than accuracy in the first instance, but a later check would be worthwhile.
 
Angus Walker is a partner at Bircham Dyson Bell. Blog: www.bdb-law.co.uk/blog
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