Stansted Airport planning appeal - frequently asked questions

Answers to some of the questions asked about the Stansted Airport planning appeal.

The Panel of Inspectors appointed to conduct the inquiry comprises Michael Boniface MSc MRTPI, Gareth Jones BSc (Hons) DipTP DMS MRTPI and Nick Palmer BA (Hons) BPl MRTPI.

Details of the inquiry can be found on the Planning Casework Portal.

Who runs the appeals process

The independent Planning Inspectorate run appeals on behalf of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The rules for appeals are set by the government.

Who decides the appeal

The Planning Inspectorate appoint Inspectors to hear all the arguments for and against the proposals. For this appeal a panel of three Inspectors has been appointed.

Normally, the Inspector then issues a decision letter with his/her conclusions on the appeal and the reasons for allowing or dismissing the appeal as appropriate.

In some situations, the Secretary of State may decide to make the decision himself. This is normally called a 'recovered appeal'.

A recovered appeal is one where instead of an inspector making the decision, he or she will write a report that will make a recommendation on how the appeal should be determined. This will then be passed to the Secretary of State to make the decision, taking into account the Inspector's recommendation.

Can I have my say

Yes, once the appeal starts you can send your views about it to the Planning Inspectorate.

If I made comments on the planning application when the council was still considering it, do I need to submit them again?

All the comments made to the council before it refused the application will be sent to the Planning Inspector so they can see them.

It is nevertheless open to you to write again directly to the Planning Inspectorate to make further comments.

When and where will the inquiry be held?

The inquiry will open at 10.00am on Tuesday 12 January 2021.

Due to current pandemic restrictions the inquiry will be held as a hybrid event. This means that the public inquiry will be held as a blend of both virtual and socially distanced, traditional face to face sessions.

The Inspectors, their support team and some witnesses will be able to sit in a room with suitable social distancing precautions in place. Legal teams and some witnesses will attend remotely via audio visual links.

The proceedings of each day will be broadcast by video and made available via an online steam and audio recording

Can I attend the inquiry?

No, due to current pandemic restrictions you will not be able to attend in person.

The proceedings of each day will be broadcast by video and made available via an online steam and audio recording.

We will publish more details about this nearer the time.

What will the inquiry be like?

It is not a court of law, but the proceedings will often seem to be quite similar. Often expert evidence is presented, and witnesses are questioned by the lawyers representing the council, appellant and other groups. This is often referred to as being "cross-examined". Some parts of the appeal may be dealt with through round table hearings chaired by the Inspectors.

During the current pandemic the Planning Inspectorate has decided to hold conduct proceedings virtually, so that social distancing can be maintained at the venue. The Planning Inspectorate have provided guidance about their approach to appeals during the pandemic.

The public inquiry could be a blend of both virtual and socially distanced, traditional face to face sessions.

We will publish more details about this nearer the time.

Can I participate at the inquiry?

Inquiries are open to members of the public, and although you do not have a legal right to speak, the Inspectors will normally make arrangements to allow you to do so. If you want to speak at the inquiry, it is important that you are there when it opens, because this is when the Inspectors will normally ask if any interested people want to speak at the inquiry and register their names.

You will need to think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Some people prefer to make, or read out, a brief statement giving their views. If there are several people with the same views, it is a good idea for one person to speak on behalf of the others. A group of interested people may appoint one agent, solicitor, or barrister (who would be their "advocate") to represent them all. 

Planning Inspectorate have published a guide to taking part in planning appeals.

If you wish to take a very active part in an inquiry you should contact the Planning Inspectorate requesting "Rule 6" status. You will be required to submit a statement setting out the full details of your case. Participants with similar views should ideally group together and elect a spokesperson to appear at the inquiry on the group's behalf.

People with disabilities

If you, or anyone you know, want to take part in the inquiry and you have particular needs, please contact us so that we can ensure appropriate arrangements are made to ensure that the inquiry is accessible.

Who is representing the council?

As the planning application was recommended for approval by council officers, it would not be appropriate for those officers who were actively engaged in the planning application to be the main witnesses at the inquiry.

A team of consultants will therefore be used to present the council's case. A senior QC has also been appointed to lead the case.

Who pays the costs of the appeal?

All parties are expected to pay their own costs of participating in the appeal. Only if the Inspectors consider that one party acted unreasonably might they order them to pay costs.

What is a "Statement of Case"?

Once the appeal has been submitted, both the appellant, the council and any other party with "Rule 6" status (see above) must within five weeks of the formal start of the appeal submit an initial statement outlining the case they will make at the public inquiry.

Sometimes referred to as a "Rule 6 Statement", this is effectively a skeleton of the full evidence that will be submitted in full proofs of evidence by witnesses at the public inquiry.

We have published the statements of case for Stansted Airport Limited, Stop Stansted Expansion and Uttlesford District Council on the Planning appeal - Stansted Airport page.

What is a "Proof of Evidence"?

A 'proof of evidence' is a document containing the detailed written evidence which a person appearing as a witness at a public inquiry will present. The main purpose of a 'proof of evidence' is to allow everybody to see the evidence the witnesses will present at the public inquiry. The witnesses may then be cross examined at the inquiry on the contents of their proof of evidence. At the public inquiry, the proof of evidence is normally taken as read although the witness is expected to read out a summary of it. Proofs of evidence are normally submitted four weeks before the start of the public inquiry.

The proofs of evidence will be available to view on the Stansted Airport Inquiry website.

What is a "Statement of Common Ground"?

In all public inquiries, the Planning Inspectorate require that appellants and local planning authorities submit a statement that lists all the issues where there is agreement. This is because the Planning Inspectorate want councils and appellants to work together to agree common ground in order to help the Inspectors identify the areas of dispute and reduce the quantity of material which needs to be submitted.

The statement is not optional and must list all agreed matters including basic facts such as the site description, area, planning history, relevant planning policies, and as many other matters as possible relating to the application. 

The Statement of Common Ground (SoCG) will be available on the Stansted Airport Inquiry website.

If the appeal is allowed, can the council ensure planning conditions and S106 agreement requirements are imposed?

Before the Inquiry is held the Inspectors will require the appellant and the council to agree what conditions and legal agreements should be used in the event that the appeal is allowed, and permission granted. This is normal requirement in planning appeals and does not prejudice the council's case.

The fact that potential conditions and legal agreements are suggested does not mean that the appeal will be allowed, and planning permission granted. Nor does it mean that if the appeal is allowed, the agreed conditions will automatically be imposed. This is because the final decision rests with the Inspectors who will normally hold a discussion during the public inquiry about the conditions which may be imposed if the proposal is granted planning permission. This is so the inspectors can be satisfied that the suggested conditions comply with the relevant government tests for the use of planning conditions.

What meetings are held before the inquiry?

A Case Management conference is arranged by the Planning Inspectorate with the appellant, council, any Rule 6 parties and anyone else invited by the Inspectors.

The purpose of the meeting is for an Inspector (not necessarily the Inspectors deciding the appeal) to set out what the main issues are likely to be and any other matters that may need to be addressed. The Inspector will also consider how the evidence can best be addressed in order to conduct the inquiry in the most efficient and effective manner.

The Case Conference Meeting was held remotely using Microsoft Teams at 10am on Thursday 24 September.  All the documents are available on the Stansted Airport Inquiry website.

Will the Inspectors visit the airport?

The Planning Inspectors will hold a formal site visit which normally takes place at the end of the public inquiry. The purpose of this is for the Inspectors to see the site and its surroundings and expressly not to hear new evidence.

All the arguments for or against the proposal must therefore be made at the formal sittings of the public inquiry. Normally, before the inquiry closes the Inspectors will discuss and agree the locations to be visited and is usually accompanied on the site visit by representatives of the main parties at the appeal.

Can the appeal decision be challenged?

Once the appeal has been decided there is no further right of appeal. The decision can only be challenged in a court of law by requesting a judicial review. A claim for judicial review is a request to review the lawfulness of the decision in relation to the exercise of a public function. Requests for a judicial review must be made to the Planning Court within six weeks of the date of the appeal decision.

Who can I contact about the inquiry?

The Planning Inspectorate has appointed a case officer. The case officer is Elizabeth Humphrey.

Details of how to contact them will be added here.

Getting help

If you would like help in taking part in the appeal, you can appoint your own advisor, or you can contact Planning Aid.

Planning Aid provides free and independent professional advice on town and country planning issues to people and groups who cannot afford consultancy fees:

Planning Aid England, 41-42 Botolph Lane, London EC3R 8DL

Advice Line: 0330 123 9244

Switchboard: 020 7929 9494



Additional information on planning appeals

Planning portal website - appeals

Planning Inspectorate - procedural guidance