Around 300 experts were given key advice on how a planning inquiry shake-up may affect them in an annual seminar hosted by a leading barristers’ chambers.

Planning inspector Phillip Ware was invited by No5 Barristers’ Chambers to take part in the key-note session at the seminar, which was held at the ICC in Birmingham.

Mr Ware was joined by Christopher Young QC and Satnam Choongh to form an expert panel to discuss planning inquiries post the Rosewell Review and how to make best use of the revised inquiry process.

The Government-commissioned Rosewell Review, chaired by Bridget Rosewell CBE, last summer began assessing how the planning appeal inquiry system could be improved and made quicker. The report, published in February, made 22 recommendations aimed at reducing the time it takes to conclude planning inquiries, while maintaining the quality of decisions.

The panel was unanimous in welcoming the review highlighting areas in which greater clarity would be beneficial to the process.

Christopher Young QC criticised the current inquiry timescales, that can take around a year, saying clients were sometimes put off and would choose a different route often leading to an unsatisfactory outcome.

Mr Ware, who joined the Inspectorate 24 years ago, said that by week eight of the revised inquiry process a telephone case conference should now take place between the inspector and all the main parties.

He welcomed this change to the format, adding that early case conferences and round table discussions would be of great benefit to all involved as they would promote clarity and identify the main points of dispute between parties.

Mr Choongh welcomed a telephone conference as an ‘excellent idea’ saying it would mean that an inspector could get to grips with a case at an early stage. He said it was an opportunity for all sides to highlight significant issues and hoped inspectors would be robust if parties needed to clarify their positions.

Mr Young said inspectors should be encouraged to be more pro-active and raise questions, if necessary, in the pursuit of clarity. He also alerted delegates to the need to be prepared at an early stage of the appeal process as very quickly decisions would have to be made – for example, who should be part of the pre-inquiry telephone case conference? At what stage should experts, including counsel, be instructed? What are the main issues for discussion at the conference?

During the event, other topics included a Green Belt debate, an update on habitats regulations and clean air, heritage issues, planning technology, housing delivery updates and case law updates.