Please provide copies by email of:
The Planning Inspector’s Handbook – as valid for 2015
The Planning Inspector’s Handbook - as last published
Planning Inspector’s Guidance Notes since last publication of The Planning Inspector’s Handbook.
Any other procedural obligations your inspectors have to adhere to.
Arthur Laws – on behalf of altruvista – for the wider community
Thank you for your e-mail. It is receiving attention and, where a reply
is required, we will send one as soon as possible.
Dear Mr Laws
I acknowledge receipt of your request for information made through the
whatdotheyknow.com website. Unless we require further information then we
aim to provide a response to your request within 20 working days – i.e by
4 Nov 2016.
Dear Mr Laws
Thank you for your email requesting information from the Planning Inspectorate. Your request has been considered under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000\Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
For the avoidance of doubt, the document that was known as the Planning Inspector's Handbook was archived some years ago, and before 2015 (the earliest date of your request). We do however provide Inspectors with the Inspector Training Manual, which provides practical advice to new Inspectors and also serves as a source of continuing professional development for existing Inspectors. As the nearest (and only) equivalent to the old Handbook, I have assumed that this is what you require.
The manual is in effect live, and continually updated, and I enclose a copy a snapshot as at 31 October 2016 (in that respect, please note that the pages on the disclosure provided have been annotated with "This document is continually updated - Only valid as of 31/10/2016").
As it is continually updated, there is no single version that was valid for 2015; therefore it is not possible to comply with this part of your request.
With regards your request for "Planning Inspector Guidance Notes" published since the last publication of the Inspector Training Manual, I can confirm that no guidance of any type has been released since the Manual was last updated and published.
With regard to procedural obligations that Inspectors have to adhere to, and as you will note from the "health warnings" in the Inspector Training Manual, Inspectors are required to adhere to national planning policy, guidance and legislation - and this takes precedence over the information in the Manual. Such policy, guidance and legislation is already made publically available and should be fully accessible to you (for instance from the planning portal - https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/20....
I trust this answers your request, but if you have any further queries or should you consider that my response breaches the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act\Environmental Information regulations then details of our review procedures are also enclosed.
Dear Mr Long,
Thank you for your response to my FoI request of October 7th.
I am unable to understand from your correspondence whether the Planning Inspector’s Handbook was subsumed into the Inspector Training Manual, or if the former was effectively abandoned and a new regime begun with the latter.
Nor do you indicate if there was an intervening period during which the Handbook was supplemented with additional guidance notes.
When was the Handbook withdrawn and when did the Manual became effective?
You indicate that it would not be possible to do any historical analysis of planning decisions’ compliance with the Manual, from the information you have provided, other than those made on 31/10/2016.
Please kindly explain the status of the Handbook and the Manual, in respect of the extent to which inspectors were/are required to comply with the content, and if there is any difference in this regard between the former an the latter.
It is understood that Inspectors are required to adhere to national planning policy, guidance and legislation - and it is assumed that nothing in the manual is likely to conflict with this, making your observation that “this takes precedence over the information in the Manual”, appear to be unnecessary. Or am I missing something?
If the archived Handbook exists in electronic form, I would still like to see it.
Please regard all of the above as questions to which I would be pleased to receive answers.
Please do not hesitate to query any of the above for clarification.
Dear Mr Laws,
Thank you for your further email.
The Inspector Handbook was archived in 2011 and the Inspector Training Manual was first published in August 2015. In the interim period guidance documents were provided to Inspectors. Although we would consider that the Inspector’s Training Manual represents a new regime (and the Inspector’s Training Manual contains a description of what it is) there will be similarity in some of the topics and contents. However, anything from the Handbook or guidance documents will have been reviewed for relevance to its inclusion in the Manual as well as for currency at that time. As already stated, the contents of the Manual are also continually updated.
I am not sure why you think my previous response indicated “that it would not be possible to do any historical analysis of planning decisions’ compliance with the Manual”. The Manual is a living document and, as I said in respect to your previous request, there is no single version for 2015. However, I do think that such an analysis misunderstands the status of the Manual with regard to Inspector decision making. As set out on page 2, the Manual does not represent Government policy or guidance. Instead, Inspectors are required to make decisions, on a case by case basis, considering the representations provided in light of local and national planning policy and legislation, as well as any other relevant circumstances, at the time. Therefore, Inspectors are not necessarily required to comply with the contents of the Manual and the relevant test of compliance, at least with regard to the decision being lawful, requires consideration of the representations provided and the application of local and national planning policies, guidance and legislation that were in force at the time of the decision. The Inspector Training Manual is clearly not written to conflict with that published policy, guidance and legislation, but it does not purport to be a substitute for it.
As requested, I enclose a copy of the Handbook in its final, archived, form. I also enclose a further copy of our FOI\EIR review procedures.