Complaints procedure

As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are running a reduced service. We ask that you do not send any correspondence by post whilst our offices remain closed.

Please contact us by email at feedback@planninginspectorate.gov.uk or by telephone on 0303 444 5884. Our complaints line is open between 09:00 and 12:00, Monday to Friday (closed on weekends and public holidays).

Please be aware that we are taking 40 working days to answer complaints. If a complaint is more complex or relevant persons are unavailable for comment, we may take longer to respond.

If you are making a legal challenge in the High Court, do not wait for our response. Our complaints procedure is separate from the process and timescales for filing legal challenges with the Courts.

The Planning Inspectorate treats all complaints seriously. Our aim is to provide a clear and full response, first time.

What our complaints procedure covers

  • The standard of service we provide
  • The conduct of our staff
  • Any action or lack of action by staff affecting an individual or group
  • Circumstances where you think our staff have not properly followed Government planning policy or guidance, relevant legislation and our procedural guidance.

What our complaints procedure does not cover

  • Reconsidering the merits of a case, the decisions or recommendations of Inspectors or Examining Authorities or the evidence taken into account
  • Adding to decisions or recommendations
  • The actions of Councils, Government departments or other parties
  • Government policy
  • Complaint matters that have already been fully answered by us.

Decisions by Inspectors (or decisions based on the recommendations of Inspectors) are final unless successfully challenged in the High Court on a point of law. Only the Courts can legally review decisions or recommendations by Inspectors and identify an error in law.

The Planning Inspectorate can only reconsider a case if the High Court decides to cancel the decision and returns the case to the Planning Inspectorate for it to be decided again.

We can only correct minor typographical mistakes in specific types of decisions on request. Information is given in our published document, Planning appeals: procedural guide.

Service standards

Please read our Customer Charter for information about our service standards.

Complaints privacy statement

Please read our Privacy Statement for information about how we process personal information in complaints received by us.

How to complain

Complaints should be made as soon as the reason becomes apparent. We will not answer complaints made more than one year after a decision or recommendation.

Complaints should be made in full at the start, providing as much detail as possible. You can send complaints to us by email or telephone.

Email: feedback@planninginspectorate.gov.uk

Telephone: 0303 444 5884

Before making a complaint

Contact the relevant support staff at the Planning Inspectorate for any questions or concerns you have about a case that has not yet concluded. Most issues can be answered by the support staff responsible for administering the case. If you are unsure about who to contact, please ask our Customer Team on 0303 444 5000.

The Programme Officer should be contacted for any questions or concerns you have about an examination of a Local Plan that has not yet concluded. Contact details can be found on the relevant Local Planning Authority’s website for the examination.

Stages of the complaints procedure

Stage 1

The Customer Team will answer any unresolved issues, concerns about staff conduct or any complaint made after a decision or recommendation.

As part of investigating complaints, Customer Team Officers may check facts against relevant guidance or case documentation. Inspectors or support staff may be asked for their comments. In a few cases, parties outside our organisation (such as a Local Authority) may also be contacted for their general observations on what occurred.

Complaints may also be referred to a senior manager with specialist casework knowledge for review, to help the Customer Team reach an independent view on whether to uphold the complaint or not. However, the reply will come from the Customer Team Officer.

Stage 2

If a complainant considers that the reply from the Customer Team Officer has not adequately responded to their concerns, a Customer Team Manager will review the complaint and how it was handled and provide a final reply.

Remedy and redress

For any acknowledged errors, we will write to the complainant explaining what has happened. The responsible staff and their line manager will be informed of the outcome as part of performance management. We will also look to see if lessons can be learned to prevent similar mistakes from happening again.

Where we uphold complaints, our remedies include:

  • an apology, explanation and acknowledgement of responsibility
  • remedial action, such as reviewing or changing our service standards; revising published material; revising procedures or guidance; training or supervising staff; or any combination of these.

In most cases, an explanation and an apology will be an appropriate response.

In exceptional circumstances, we may provide compensation for additional costs incurred as a direct result of an acknowledged error by us, where valid claims are made. Financial compensation is a final option and will only apply in cases where the loss or suffering is considered to warrant such a payment. Information is given in our published document, Planning Inspectorate: claims for repayment of additional costs (ex gratia scheme)

Review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

If you remain unhappy, you can ask your Member of Parliament to take your complaint to the independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to review the handling of your complaint. The PHSO can be contacted at:

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London
SW1P 4QP

Customer helpline: 0345 015 4033

Email: phso.enquiries@ombudsman.org.uk

Website: https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/

Feedback

As well as learning from complaints we also welcome ideas and constructive feedback on how we might do things better. Please send these to feedback@planninginspectorate.gov.uk.