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Environment minister, Tony Baldry, yesterday reported on the progress of local plan inquires. ...
Environment minister, Tony Baldry, yesterday reported on the progress of local plan inquires.

Launching the summary of a report into local plan inquiries, the minister said he was aware of the difficulties especially as the inquiry appeared to be 'a pinch point' but said many problems arose because local authorities and objectors did not follow guidance.

'The researchers concluded that no substantial reductions in length or cost of an inquiry will be possible unless fundamental changes are made, that is qualifying the right to be heard, or the need to hold an inquiry. There were few supporters for such a system.'

The report said the procedure needed greater structure, consistency and rigour but Mr Baldry said any change which would make the inquiry more legalistic should be approached carefully.

'The report suggests that we enhance the status of written representations. The aim is to encourage objectors to rely on written submissions, which Inspectors can absorb quickly, and without the need for lengthy examination and cross-examination,' the minister said.

Mr Baldry then said that local authorities did not do enough to tell objectors what is needed: 'We look to them to do more. For my part, I will ensure that the Planning Inspectorate does all it can to promote good practice.'

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