§ Mr. Peter Ainsworth
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy regarding the need to disclose investment plans of applicants in the planning process to ensure the viability of the scheme under consideration.
§ Mr. Peter Ainsworth
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps his inspectors take at public inquiries to ensure that time and resources are not wasted by the unpreparedness of witnesses; and what steps are taken to recover costs where such unpreparedness results in important information being unavailable to the inquiry.
§ Mr. Curry
Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Planning Inspectorate executive agency under its chief executive and chief planning inspector, Mr. H. Stephen Crow. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from H. S. Crow to Mr. Peter Ainsworth, dated 20 July 1994:The Secretary of State for the Environment has asked me to reply to your Question about steps taken by inspectors to ensure that time is not wasted at public inquiries by the unpreparedness of witnesses; and what steps are taken to recover costs where such unpreparedness results in important information being unavailable to the inquiry.Depending on whether the decision on the case is to be taken by the Secretary of State or the Inspector, the procedure at planning inquiries is governed by The Town and Country Planning (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992 or The Town and Country Planning (Determination by Inspectors) (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992 [Statutory Instruments 1992 Nos. 2038 and 2039 respectively]. Both sets of Rules require proofs of evidence and summaries to be submitted not later than three weeks before the date fixed for the inquiry or by a date programmed by the Inspector. The aim is to make the inquiry process as efficient and effective as possible, whilst impairing neither the fairness nor the impartiality of the proceedings, nor the ability of participants to make representations which are relevant to the decision (paragraphs 5–8 of DoE Circular 24/92).If a person who proposes to give evidence by reading a proof of evidence has not submitted that proof in advance, the Inspector at the inquiry has to consider, in the light of any submissions by other parties, what course of action would be in the public interest. Options could include having the witness read out the full proof, adjourning the inquiry to allow everyone to study the proof, and re-programming the witness to appear later. It is for the Inspector alone to decide what course to take.Whether or not he or she has submitted a proof of evidence, a witness is sometimes unable to answer a question during 465W cross-examination. If the information is important, the Inspector may ask the witness to obtain it and return to answer the question later. Meanwhile the inquiry will continue. Alternatively the Inspector may adjourn the inquiry whilst the witness obtains the information.The policy on the award of costs incurred in planning inquiries is set out in DoE Circular 8/93. Before an award of costs is made, three conditions will normally need to be met (paragraph 6 of Annex 1 of the Appendix to Circular 8/93).Briefly these are:
- (1) one of the parties has sought an award at the inquiry;
- (2) the party against whom costs are sought has behaved unreasonably; and
- (3) this unreasonable conduct has caused the party seeking costs to incur expense unnecessarily.Therefore, at the inquiry an application for an award of costs may be made to the Inspector if a party considers that the unpreparedness of a witness has amounted to unreasonable behaviour and that such conduct has caused unnecessary expense. There is no other sanction (paragraph 9 of Circular 24/92). The Inspector will hear submissions from both parties. The decision on the award of costs will not normally be issued until the decision on the merits of the case has been issued.