The Festival Gardens plans are currently undergoing a Public Enquiry. But what is a Public Enquiry. How do they work. Where can we find out more about them. This article provides some answers. Most of the following is taken from guidance given on the communities.gov and Planning Inspectorate websites.

Decisions on planning applications and appeals

The Secretary of State has the power to “call-in” planning applications for determination rather than letting the local authority decide (for example, if they conflict with national policies on important matters). The decision on whether to call-in a planning application for determination by the Secretary of State is made having regard to published policy.

Planning Appeals can also “recovered” for decision by Ministers for similar reasons. As with applications, the decision for an appeal to be “recovered” is made having regard to published policy.

The decision of the Secretary of State on whether to grant planning permission following an appeal or the call-in of an application is informed by the report of an Inspector who nearly always holds a public inquiry into the proposal. Such decisions are “quasi-judicial”, and therefore particular care is needed in taking them. However, similar considerations also arise in the exercise of discretionary powers on planning matters, such as in deciding whether or not to call in a planning application or recover an appeal.

Who Decides?

The Secretary of State (Hazel Blears) has overall responsibility for decisions taken under the planning Acts. Decisions are taken by her and on her behalf by Yvette Cooper MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Meg Munn MP and Baroness Andrews, Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State.

Hazel Blears said when she was appointed to be Secretary of State “I am honoured to have been appointed as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. People are looking to us to create stable and safe communities, thriving neighbourhoods and affordable homes. I have always championed local communities, and sought to give local people more influence and control over their lives. I pledge today to carry on the work to make our communities stronger, safer and great to live in.”

Yvette Cooper is MP for Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley. She gave a speech to the Fabian Society on 15th May 2007 entitled Housing and Life chances. More info here

Meg Munn is the MP for Sheffield Heeley. More info here

Baroness Kay Andrews OBE has made many speeches.

How do they decide

They must

(i) act, and be seen to act, fairly and even handedly, by bringing an unbiased, properly directed and independent mind to consideration of the matter; and
(ii) not take into account privately made representations. In order to demonstrate even-handedness, and in the interests of natural justice, all evidence which is material to any decision which has been the subject of a planning inquiry, and which the decision taker ultimately takes into account, must be made available to all parties with an interest in the decision.

What happens at the enquiry

The Planning Inspectorate have answers to most questions about the enquiry.

After the inquiry

After the inquiry, the Inspector will report to the Secretary of State with his or her findings and recommendations. When the Secretary of State has reached a decision, this will be explained in the decision letter. This letter will normally be sent by the Planning Central Casework which is part of the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Where is the information

A database containing copies of the decision letters on called in and recovered appeal cases decided by the Secretary of State since 1 October 2000 which have been issued by the Government Offices can be found here. It doesnt currently contain the Festival Gardens case.

Inspectors’ reports referred to in the decision letters are not normally available in electronic form unless a specific link has been provided. Anyone who may require a hard copy of an Inspector’s report referred to in a decision letter should contact the relevant Government Office or PCCD

Other Information

The Planning Inspectorate records the Festival Gardens enquiry as follows:

Case Type: Called In (S77)
LPA: Liverpool
Job Number: 1201807
Sitting Date: 30 Oct 07
Site Address: Former Garden Festival Site, Riverside Drive, Liverpool, L3

Useful Addresses

Planning Inspectorate

Planning Inspectorate
Major and Specialist Casework,
Room 4/04 Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol
BS12 6PN

0117 372 8918
Fax 0117 372 8181
E-mail hazel.conibere@pins.gsi.gov.uk

GOVERNMENT OFFICE FOR THE NORTH WEST – serving Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens, Wirral and Cheshire
Government Office for the North West
Planning
Sunley Tower
Piccadilly Plaza
MANCHESTER
M1 4BE
0161 952 4000
Fax 0161 952 4255
Web site www.go-nw.gov.uk