The local planning authority will inform you by letter when and where the inquiry will take place. There are three main options for submitting evidence.
∑ You can send a letter.
∑ You can turn up on the day and ask to speak. If you do, then you may be cross-examined, but you don't get the chance to ask questions of the other parties. However, this is the easiest and most common way to appear at an inquiry.
∑ If you have really strong feelings about the case - or hold views that are very different to others being put forward - you could consider asking to be a "rule 6 party." Don't take this on lightly though as it involves very strict schedules and deadlines. The main benefit is that you'll have the same status as the other parties, and receive all the evidence before the inquiry beings. At the inquiry you can represent yourself, act as an advocate, cross-examine the other parties, as well as giving evidence-in-chief put witnesses up to support your case. Becoming a rule 6 party is quite a rare and extreme thing to take on.
Speaking at an inquiry
Most people appearing at an inquiry will do so as members of the public, rather than having rule 6 party status. There are some key things to remember.
∑ Think carefully about what you want to say, pick out the key elements of your objection to the development. It is best to read out a written statement.
∑ If you are part of group, decide who would be best presenting the evidence and answering questions during cross-examination. The inspector will appreciate the time this saves.
∑ If you are working with other groups, it is a good idea to form a partnership or coalition, and split the evidence according to the issue, expertise and knowledge. Donít all give the same evidence - although you should make clear you support everything each other says. This will look organised and professional.
∑ It is vital that you are there at the beginning of the inquiry as the inspector will run through the schedule and ask who would like to speak. If you miss this, you may not be able to speak at the inquiry. Tell the inspector if you can't attend the whole inquiry, so that they can try to re-arrange the schedule to include you.
What happens at an inquiry
∑ The appellant presents their case first and is cross-examined by the local planning authorityís legal representative first and then by members of the public.
∑ Next the local planning authority makes its case and is cross-examined in the same way.
∑ Then come members of the public - this is when you can read out your statement. After you have made your statement, you may be asked questions by the appellantís legal representative. Donít be intimidated, the inspector will not let them ask hostile or unfair questions.
∑ As with hearings, the inquiry will end with a site visit which you can attend. You must only speak to the inspector when pointing out issues raised during the inquiry.
A decision should be made within five weeks for written representations, and seven weeks for informal hearings and inquiries. Complex inquiries or those decided by the Secretary of State can take much longer to determine.
Copies are sent to the applicant and local planning authority and those who requested a copy of the decision