Correspondence with the Inspector

Public Examinations
Inspector: David Vickery DipTP MRTPI
Programme Officer: Pauline Butcher
Council Offices, Station Road East
Surrey, RH8 0BT
Tel: 07766 473398

Oxted & Limpsfield Residents

8 April 2008

Dear Sir/Madam,

Pre-Examination Meeting - Tandridge Core Strategy Examination

The Council has drawn my attention to your web site which, on its Home Page, notes that I am holding another meeting to discuss the Core Strategy on Tuesday 22 April 2008. Your web site says that you are urging people to attend the meeting so that I can make no mistake about what local people want.

Unfortunately, the Pre-Examination Meeting (PEM) is only an administrative session. In a letter of 13 March 2008 to all the respondents to the Core Strategy (which you may not have seen) my Programme Officer, Pauline Butcher, explained that:

'The purpose of the PEM is to provide an opportunity for procedural and administrative matters relating to the hearings later in the summer to be explained and discussed, together with the form and content of the hearings programme. Whilst you can raise any such administrative issues that may be causing concern, it will not be an occasion for detailed discussion of your representations or the merits of the matters to be considered at the hearings.'

If you attended the Exploratory Meeting on Thursday 3 April you will be familiar with my note handed out there, which is equally applicable to the PEM. The PEM will:

  • NOT allocate individual sites.
  • NOT hear from developers about sites they want to develop.
  • NOT decide on any planning applications.
  • NOT remove land from the Green Belt.
  • NOT be a public meeting to hear everyone's views about development in Tandridge.

I should be very grateful if you explain the above points to your members, and to ensure that the information on your web site makes all these points about the PEM clear. I would not want to be accused of misleading members of the public, and so I would greatly appreciate your assistance in bringing these facts to everyone's attention.

I am currently assessing whether the PEM should be held at a larger venue. I decided not to change the advertised venue of the Exploratory Meeting last Thursday as such a last-minute change would have created public confusion. Instead, a further large room was added to the Council Chamber where I held two repeat 'sittings' over a two hour period with local people and, in addition, Council staff distributed to those waiting outside my note which explained the purpose of the meeting.

I can assure you that I was made very clearly aware of local people's views at last Thursday's Exploratory Meeting. And I know that those concerns are still strongly held. I appreciate that you want me to listen to those views, and so I have a suggestion that may assist that aim.

As you may be aware, I can legally only hear from people who have made representations on the Core Strategy and who have asked to appear before me and to be heard by me. I note that the Oxted and Limpsfield Residents group have not made any representations, but that some relevant representations have been made by Mr and Mrs Sayer, who I understand are members of your body. Although Mr and Mrs Sayer have not asked to appear and be heard before me on housing matters (primarily policies CSP 1 and 12 and their supporting paragraphs), I would be prepared to make a one-off special and extraordinary provision for them to be able to attend the relevant housing hearing session and for them (or their representative) to speak on your body's behalf as well as their own. The date for that session has not yet been set (and will be discussed at the PEM), but I anticipate that it will be sometime in mid to late June 2008.

In this way, a spokesperson for local residents would be able to address me and to tell me what local people want. This would presumably be in support of the Council's case, and so I would advise you to liaise with Mr Newdick in the Planning Department to coordinate what is said.

I have sent a copy of this letter to Mr and Mrs Sayer so that they are aware of the position and the offer that I have made to you. Of course, if they object to speaking on behalf of your body then my offer would not be able to be implemented.

Lastly, your members may be interested in the Planning Inspectorate's Plain English two-page guide to examining development plan documents, which can either be seen on the web link below or is available as a hard copy from my Programme Officer:

Please let me know if you want to take up my suggestion for the housing hearing session. Please address any reply to my Programme Officer, Pauline Butcher.

Yours faithfully,

David Vickery

David Vickery


Dear Mr Vickery,

Pre- Examination Meeting (PEM) - Tandridge Core Strategy Examination

Thank you for your letter of 8 April to Oxted & Limpsfield Residents explaining the nature of the Pre-Examination Meeting to be held on 22 April.

The Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group would be pleased to help clarify the purpose of the meeting on 22 April by putting appropriate details on its web site. We think that this is best done when you send out the Briefing Note, A PEM Agenda, a Draft Programme for the hearings and the Draft Matters to be discussed at the hearings, documents which will form the basis for the PEM. At this stage we would anticipate putting these on the website plus any relevant comments from the Group. We'd hope these will make it very clear what will be discussed at the meeting, who will be discussing them and that there are to be further hearings in the summer and the topics to be discussed then. Our members will then be able to make up their minds as to whether they wish to attend or not on the basis of clear information.

Transparency on this front will be important. Oxted and Limpsfield residents are naturally suspicious of a procedure (and I appreciate that you have to follow the rules and do not make them up) which seems to favour those who oppose the plan and does not allow those who support the plan to put forward their views and, until the above documents come out, there will remain considerable concern that the PEM will be another one-sided opportunity for developers to seek to further their interests. It is said that he who composes the minutes controls the meeting - in this case the concern amongst residents is that he who can have a say at the PEM can shape the following hearings. Consequently making it very clear that the PEM will only be covering procedural and administrative matters relating to the hearings will be important in dispelling these suspicions. With that in mind we do note that the letter you refer to of March 13th states that the PEM will also deal with 'the form and content of the hearings programme'. As that seems to go beyond purely procedural issues we would be grateful if you would clarify what is meant by form and content in the context of the PEM.

You have indicated that the PEM documents would be available on 14th April - our observation is that the sooner this could be done the more helpful it would be.
That would enable us to put them on the website early enough for our members to consider them and make their decisions about attendance.

Thank you for your offer to allow Mr and Mrs Sayer (or their representatives) to appear at the hearings on behalf of this Group. The Group would wish to be able to speak at the hearings and we will revert to you on how we see this working. It would assist us at this stage if you would let us know whether members of the public will be able to speak at the meetings to be held later in the year or if only invitees will be allowed to address you.

Yours sincerely

Catherine Sayer

Inspector's reply

The Inspector has asked me to thank you for your quick response to his letter of 13 April 2008. He has the following points of information and clarification on your letter:

the PEM will also, as the Agenda will make clear, deal with the first three procedural tests of soundness. These are reproduced in the Planning Inspectorate's Plain English guide, the web link to which was in the Inspector's letter. For ease of reference the relevant part is reproduced below:

Tests one to three involve the inspector checking that the authority has followed the proper procedures in preparing the development plan document. The inspector will need to make sure that the document has been prepared in line with the local development scheme - the programme of local development documents that the authority plans to produce. The inspector must check that the development plan document has gone through proper community consultation, and that the authority has considered the environmental, social and economic effects of the policies in the document.

  • the same guide also makes it clear that the PEM will "will identify the main areas to be examined and a timetable will be produced for the discussion or hearing sessions. Everyone involved in the examination will be invited to the meeting". The parties involved in the Examination are the Council and those who have made representations (the respondents) on the Core Strategy.
  • as the Inspector's letter to the Council of 4 April says, the necessary papers for the PEM documents will be available during the week beginning 14 April - not on the 14 April itself. Due to time pressures, this may initially be just the Agenda and Briefing Note, with the Draft Programme and Draft Matters to follow as quickly as possible later that week.
  • So far as members of the public speaking at the hearing sessions are concerned, the guide makes it clear (Question 2) that people only have the right to be heard if they are seeking a change to the Core Strategy, and that even those who are supporting the Core Strategy in their representation can only speak if the Inspector invites them. Legally, only those who have made representations have either the right to be heard or can be invited to do so by the Inspector.