Hearings and Decisions
Inquiry hearings, when requested, are usually conducted by the Inspector in Government Offices who allows all parties opportunity to state their case, call any witnesses, and question any evidence produced by others.
Interested parties are normally given at least 21 days notice of the date and time of the hearing. The Department will be represented at hearings, usually by the Planning Officer who raised the report and original assessment of the application. All other parties should make arrangements to present their own case, either personally or by a representative.
It should be noted that hearings are not formal legal proceedings and where parties engage legal representation, such individuals cannot act in a legal capacity. In addition the costs of interested parties in Planning Appeals, including any representation, must be borne by the individual parties concerned. The Inspector will open the hearing by explaining what the appeal is about.
Whilst the primary Appellant(s) remain as those who originally paid the appeal fee, all other interested parties will be given opportunity to speak
The Inspector may give a summary of the Appellant and Department’s case, and say which topics will be discussed. In most cases the Appellant will be asked to present their case, followed by any other parties present who support the Appellant's case.
The Department's representative will be called to present their case, followed by any other parties who support the decision taken. Following the presentation of evidence, that evidence will be open to questions from those on the opposing side of the case together with questions from the Inspector.
Although hearings are usually informal, they must be orderly if everyone involved is to have a fair hearing. The key point to remember is that the format of the hearing is for the Inspector to determine, although he/she is required to properly explain the format at the outset.
Following the hearing, or consideration of the case under the Written Procedure, the Inspector will consider all the evidence, and submit a report (with recommendations) to the Minister for the Department of Environment, Food & Agriculture.
The Minister will then determine the appeal. The Minister's decision and the Inspector's report will be copied to the applicant and the primary appellants. All other parties will be notified of the decision and directed to where the report may be viewed should they wish to. The detail is usually available on line immediately after issue. Where the appeal decision may vary from the Inspector's recommendation, the Minister will explain his/her reason for doing so.
There is no right of appeal against the Minister's decision, although it is always open to any party to seek a judicial review, through a Petition of Doleance to the High Court. Such a judicial review should only be progressed where it is believed there has been a misdirection or legal complication either during or after the appeal or its conclusion, or in relation to the decision of the Minister.