Residential property

Public inquiries, hearings, judicial reviews & statutory appeals

Competing interests are “balanced” by the planning system.

For example, land development proposals may have undesirable effects which are not in the public interest - for example adverse environmental impacts. These are balanced against the positive impacts of the development. Resolution of the conflict this creates is usually dealt with as part of the ‘everyday’ application processes, but sometimes more is required.

Public Local Inquiry

During the planning process, projects can come under increased scrutiny through a Public Local Inquiry (PLI). PLI’s are generally restricted to major projects that require Ministerial consent, although, rare, other projects can have a PLI. They also tend to feature in related areas such as compulsory purchase.

PLIs are conducted before a Reporter, who acts as an independent expert. The Reporter gathers evidence of the planning implications of the proposed development. The principle is that every party with an interest should have a fair opportunity to present their case, which is then reported upon. In the report a recommendation is made on whether permission should be granted and any conditions that should be imposed. Recommendations are usually followed, but this is not always guaranteed.

PLI procedures can vary from written evidence, to full cross-examination of witnesses under oath. Whichever procedure is adopted, a party will want to present their argument in the clearest and most effective manner possible in order to persuade both the Reporter, and ultimately the decision maker. We work with you on PLIs at a range of levels, from one-off advice on submissions, to full preparation and conduct of an inquiry. Our skilled advocacy helps you to get the best out of your case.

Statutory Appeals and Judicial Review

Where permission has been granted, parties other than the applicant (“third parties”) have no rights of review/appeal within the planning system itself. However, third parties can bring the decisions of planning authorities - including the Scottish Ministers exercising their planning functions - under the review of the courts. Formally this may be by statutory appeal, common law judicial review, or sometimes a combination, but it’s simplest to consider them as one process of judicial review. Judicial review and statutory appeals can also be taken by an applicant if they are aggrieved at a decision, such as one refusing permission.

Having an effective legal team from the outset is a significant advantage in judicial reviews; timescales to bring decisions before the courts may only be a matter of weeks. In recent years our team has acted in some of the most significant judicial reviews in planning and environmental matters. For developers our input throughout the consenting process can minimise the prospects for such a challenge, and if such a challenge is made by addressing the issues effectively we minimise the risk of any challenge being successful. For objectors we can give cost effective advice about the best route to pursue which can include, in some circumstances, obtaining an order that limits your liability to the other party in expenses (a “protective expenses order”).

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