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Can planning decisions be appealed?

Who can appeal?

There is no third-party right of appeal. This means neighbours or other third parties who object to a planning application cannot appeal that decision. Only applicants (and their representatives) can appeal a planning decision.

What can be appealed?

Applicants can appeal if a local planning authority (LPA) refused planning permission or if the LPA did not determine an application within statutory time limits or if the LPA granted planning permission but subject to ‘unreasonable’ conditions. Further information on the grounds for appeal is set out in the briefing.

How are appeals decided?

Most appeals are handled by the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). However, the Secretary of State has the power to determine an appeal instead of allowing a planning inspector to make the decision. This is called a ‘recovered’ appeal.

Most appeals are dealt with by means of written representations. Sometimes, a planning inspector will opt for a hearing instead of, or in addition to, written representations. For more complex cases, they may also opt for a local public inquiry. It is up to the inspector to decide which procedure they use.

Can interested parties get involved in appeals?

Any comments that interested parties made on an application during the public consultation stage are passed on to the planning inspector. Interested parties can also usually make further representations at the appeal stage.

If a planning inspector decides to hold a hearing or opts for a public inquiry, interested parties can attend. The inspector will decide whether interested parties can speak at the hearing. For an inquiry, interested parties can also apply for “rule 6 status” if they think they have a “substantive case”. It gives them the same status as the appellant and the LPA, and they will be allowed to speak at the inquiry.

Can planning decisions be challenged in court?

The planning decisions of LPAs, planning inspectors and the Secretary of State can be challenged in court under ‘judicial review’. This is not an appeal against a planning decision itself. The focus of judicial review is on whether a planning decision was made in a proper and lawful manner.

There is a strict six-week time limit for applying for judicial review. To proceed, a claim for judicial review requires permission from the court. It will decide whether a claimant has a “sufficient interest” and whether the grounds for judicial review are met.

If the court finds that procedural mistakes were made, it can cancel a planning decision. The LPA, planning inspector or Secretary of State will then retake their decision, correcting any mistakes identified by the court.

Complaints to the Ombudsman

Someone who has concerns about the way in which an LPA made a planning decision can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. They must first go through the LPA’s own complaints procedures.

Someone who believes that the planning inspector did something wrong in the way they decided a planning appeal can ask their MP to bring a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Complaints must be referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman by an MP.

Neither the Local Government Ombudsman nor the Parliamentary Ombudsman can overturn a planning decision. If they find fault with the procedure of an LPA or the Planning Inspectorate, they can issue recommendations on how these bodies can improve.

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