The Administrative Court (Ouseley J) has given guidance on the Planning Inspectorate’s discretion in deciding whether to re-open an inquiry following a quashed planning appeal decision, in North Norfolk District Council v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government  EWHC 2076 (Admin).
Rule 20 of the Town and Country Planning (Inquiries Procedure) (England) Rules 2000, alongside section 319A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, provides PINS a discretion to re-open an inquiry, or deal with the matter through written representations, where an appeal decision has been quashed.
Ouseley J determined that, according to PINS Procedural Guide, if the appeal was previously dealt with by an inquiry then it would normally be re-opened – and if it was not, then PINS would need to explain why.
However in coming to that decision, PINS had a broad discretion, for example the issue of complexity of the appeal is a matter of planning judgment.
In addition, it will be relevant that the previous Inquiry process has led to evidence being produced and the issues being honed, which may be a reason not to re-open the inquiry and instead deal with matters by written exchange.
It should be noted that, because PINS had decided the appeal would be considered afresh, the Court did not address the question of whether it was lawful to rely in the second decision on unchallenged parts of the first decision. This remains open to debate – see for example R (West Lancashire BC) v SSCLG  EWHC 3451 (Admin) paragraphs 26-38.
In this case, North Norfolk District Council challenged PINS’ decision to deal with an appeal in relation to two wind turbines by written representations. The Court ruled PINS had reached a lawful conclusion and dismissed the appeal.
Leon Glenister represented the Secretary of State, instructed by Ashleigh Woodhouse of the Government Legal Department.