Preparing your case
If you want your comments to be taken into account at the inquiry, you will need to have ready your 'proof of evidence' for distribution to all interested parties three weeks before the inquiry itself.
Prepare this carefully, and you will be well equipped to make your case orally on the day.
In the three weeks before the inquiry, you will also have an opportunity to examine the 'statements of case' and proofs of evidence prepared by all the other inquiry participants.
- You can draw on this evidence to strengthen your own case and to prepare yourself to tackle opposing arguments.
- If for some reason you cannot appear at the inquiry, and no one else can appear for you, you may choose to submit written evidence only.
Writing your proof of evidence
Your proof of evidence is a written account of the argument you want to present at the inquiry.
Set aside as much time as possible to prepare it.
Make sure that your points are easy to follow, as you will need to take the inspector through the arguments. You should aim for your evidence to lead the inspector to reach the decision that you want made.
Your evidence should be
- Clearly set out; this will help you to understand your case and help the inspector to understand it. You should number pages and paragraphs and avoid using un-numbered bullet points
- Clearly written; use plain English, 12 point type font, double-spacing and one side of the page only.
- Supported by appropriate evidence. Supporting documents should be separate from proofs and have identifiable reference numbers prefixed by letters.
- Comprehensive, but succinct. Don't leave things out just because you are reluctant to deal with them. If you introduce difficult issues at this stage, it will give you time to think about how best to present them at an appeal. This is sometimes called the principle of 'confess and avoid' (i.e. avoid cross-examination)
- Truthful. If you are found to be dishonest, it will devalue your evidence
- Accurate. If you exaggerate your case, it will weaken it
It may help to structure your evidence as follows
- Establish your qualifications for giving evidence. It is particularly important to show why you have expertise
- Describe your involvement in local organisations and give details of any organisation that you are representing. This is another important way to demonstrate expertise
- Describe the site and surrounding area. Although others may do this, it is important to put your case in context, in your own way. Highlight what makes the proposed development unacceptable
- Describe the proposed development
- Point out elements of particular concern
- Draw attention to the elements of the development plan, national planning guidance and other official documents that strengthen your case. Only quote from them sparingly, but explain their relevance to the appeal
- Use any information about the history of the site that illustrates why the development would be inappropriate
- Outline why you want the inspector to turn down the appeal. You need to show the harm the proposal would cause
- Use graphs, diagrams and statistics to simplify your case
- Summarise your case
- Supply any documents you have referred to in your evidence
What else you can do
- Contact the people most directly affected by the proposed development. They can give important evidence to an inquiry
- Co-ordinate your approach with other groups that share your position.
- Ensure that you are supporting, and not duplicating, each other's arguments
- You may be able to get support for your case from other groups who are opposing the development. This will strengthen your argument
- Look for weak points in the evidence supplied by other parties. Use this to decide which points to challenge
- Pick issues to raise at the inquiry on which you are well prepared. They may be points that you raised when the planning application was lodged with the local authority.
Decide if these are sufficient or whether you need to gather further evidence. Pinpoint the issues central to the appellant's case and look for weaknesses in their arguments.
Check with your local authority whether any expert witnesses are going to be called, and whether they are likely to support or oppose your arguments. Get feedback from others who are interested in the appeal.
Prioritise issues where you or your group can make a particular contribution, and make sure that your information is accurate.
If you do not have much experience of appeals, or if you have few resources, make sure that you limit the areas that you cover. You do not want to run the risk of cross-examination on issues you are not completely familiar with. If your reasoning is shown to be flawed in one area, your case as a whole will lose credibility.