Your questions answered
What is a "called-in" public inquiry?
The government has powers to intervene in any major planning application which it is felt could be controversial or could, for example, raise significant architectural and urban design issues. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government can "call in" such applications, which are taken out of the normal procedure for approval by the local planning authority (in this case, Ealing Council.). An inquiry is then set up under an independent Inspector, who looks at all the issues and makes a recommendation on what should happen.
How does the Inquiry operate?
Planning inquiries operate like other tribunals, under rules and that are laid down by Parliament. The Inspector - in this case Mr David Richards - sits on his own in a public hearing open to all to attend. He has set out the process for this Inquiry in notes of the pre-inquiry hearing which was held on 27 April. The process and regulations can be seen in more detail in The Planning Inspectorate's guidance on procedure at http://www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk/pins/21st_century/procedural_guidance_planning_appeals.pdf
Where and when will it sit?
The Inquiry opens in Ealing Town Hall on Tuesday 23 June. The first week of the Inquiry will take place in the Victoria Hall. In the second and subsequent week (if needed) the Inquiry will move to the Queen's Hall. The times of the sessions are 10.00 - 17.00 Tuesdays - Thursdays and 09.30-14.00 on Fridays. It could last for up to 12 days.
Who will be giving evidence to the Inquiry?
Glenkerrin (UK) Ltd (the applicant), Ealing Council, Save Ealing's Centre, Ealing Civic Society and the joint area Conservation Panels have all registered as main parties, and will be represented by barristers. So far, four other people have registered to speak. Main parties have to submit their evidence beforehand; SEC has done so, and its summaries can be seen by following the links in the box above.
What is the role of the local Council?
Because Ealing Council is the local planning authority which has recommended acceptance of the application, it has to explain why it has done so and how it thinks the proposal fits into the approved local Plan.
Can anyone speak at the Inquiry?
Yes. If you want to do so, you should register at the Inquiry on the first morning (Tuesday 23 June). If you can't attend on the first day, you should email the Planning Inspectorate setting out the what you want to raise and an explanation/apology saying why it will not be possible for you to attend in person on 23rd June to register. Make sure your request is sent in time for it to be forwarded to the Inspector by the administrator at the Planning Inspectorate, Mrs Terry Scott. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org, and the direct phone number is 0117 372 8908.
Do I have to be legally represented?
No. Although the main parties will be legally represented, and the procedure of giving evidence and being questioned on it is formal, ordinary members of the public do not need the help of lawyers and will be guided by the Inspector on how to proceed. The Inspector will be concerned to ensure that points are made clearly and briefly, and he may intervene to avoid matters which have already been covered being repeated.
Can I still submit comments, if I do not want to speak?
The Inspector has asked the Planning Inspectorate to accept third party representations sent in until the start of the Inquiry. To avoid any chance of these missing the deadline, please send in any comments as soon as possible to Mrs Scott at the e-mail address above.
Who makes the final decision?
The Secretary of State (now John Denham, following the resignation of Hazel Blears). He may accept the Inspector's findings in whole or in part, or may come to a completely different decision.
When will this happen?
The Inspector is expected to make his report in November, which will be sent to all who took part in the Inquiry. There is no set time for the Secretary of State to announce his decision, which could well be delayed until spring 2010.
9 June 2009