A Place for Mediation in the Planning System
Put simply, mediation is a cost effective way of resolving disputes and building consensus with the help of an independent third party. It is not a substitute for good planning, but it can build trust and confidence in the planning system.
Mediation in planning is when parties in conflict agree with the assistance of The Planning Partnership to an independent third party to help resolve the matter outside of the appeal or court processes. It can be used at any stage from policy through to enforcement. In large and complex development proposals there are often multiple parties involved and the planning process can take years with a range of issues to resolve. Mediation can therefore be especially valuable to avoid costly appeals or court action further down the line.
The essential elements of mediation:
- Mediation is a voluntary process, taking place only where the participants agree to its use.
- Mediation is a flexible process, with no set rules of procedure. Whilst mediations usually follow a similar pattern, the procedure can be adapted to meet specific needs of participants and circumstances.
- Mediation is normally conducted as a confidential process, although the outcome will become public if the participants agree.
- The mediator is independent of the participants and neutral as to the outcome of the dispute, his/her role being to assist the participants reach agreement or reduce differences
Where mediation is appropriate:
- Mediation is a flexible tool that can provide potential benefits across a wide range of planning matters and issues, including: development plan documents; planning applications; planning obligations and infrastructure cost negotiations; pre-application consultation; design and layout; conditions; neighbour objection; enforcement; compulsory purchase issues and compensation; and community right to build. Examples of mediations in planning are given in the Annex.
- It is not suitable in order to determine questions of law.
- It is not suitable if the issue is beyond the legal competence of any of the participants to resolve e.g. the formulation of national policy.
- Mediation techniques can be beneficial when used at an early stage in the planning process, to create openness, trust and good communication before any conflict has arisen. They are particularly useful for engaging with the local community in a structured and constructive way.
Parties to disputes often have no alternatives but to appear before the Courts as they are unsure as to the steps to be carried out to regularise their positions.
The introduction of a mediation process in the Planning System would provide recognition of the important role of collaboration between local councils and developers in resolving issues in relation to planning and would provide a cost effect alternative to the Summons procedure already in existence.
December 22, 2017