07 Nov 2019

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) have set out their approach to casework, agreed in consultation with MHCLG.

In the pre-election period PINS will not make decisions and recommendations that may influence election results. The published text states:

"Whether a decision or recommendation should be held back until the election results have been announced is a judgment taken by senior managers (…) on the circumstances of the case."

Any decisions or recommendations that are delayed will be issued promptly after the election.

NSIPs

With reference to the statutory timetable imposed on examinations of applications for nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) the text of the published statement is as follows: "(…) once the Preliminary Meeting has been notified and the Examination Timetable has been set the examination is expected to run to the published timetable."

The letter advising interested parties of the Preliminary Meeting (PM) is known as the 'Rule 6 letter' and will include a draft examination timetable; the deadlines in the draft timetable are not fixed at this point. Only after the PM the Examining Authority will send what is called a 'Rule 8 letter' which sets out the ExA's decisions together with the examination timetable which should be considered final. 

The 'start date' for the statutorily fixed 6month examination period (S98(1)) is the day immediately after the PM (and if it is held over more than one day the last day of the PM)), Planning Act 2008 S98(2) and S88. 

On the current wording of the published 'Press Notice' it is conceivable that if a Rule 6 letter has been issued, but the PM meeting has not yet taken place it could be cancelled or postponed. It may of course be that the wording of the Press Notice is not as precise as it could be and that if a date is set for the PM then the project may be expected to proceed to examination.

Local plans

On these the Press Notice states as follows:

"All scheduled local plan examinations and hearing sessions will continue during the pre-election period and new examinations will also begin."

"However, in order to avoid making announcements that could be politically sensitive, PINS will not be issuing any letters regarding the soundness or legal compliance of local plans, or final reports (including for fact check), until after the election."