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Planners as expert witness – new practice advice published

12 September 2018

Eight out of ten planners have defended a local authority decision in planning appeals, according to the RTPI's latest membership survey.

Eighty-two percent of survey respondents said they had experience of defending a council decision, with 34% representing a developer and 19% acting as a consultant..

All chartered town planners can be an expert witness – either in written representations, hearings, inquiries, civil courts or land tribunals. 

The RTPI has worked with representatives of the Planning and Environmental Bar Association (PEBA) to publish practice advice on “How planners can improve their effectiveness at planning inquiries and hearings”.

The advice note sets out the duties and responsibilities of being an expert witness, explains the differences between being an expert witness and an advocate, and provides top tips on how to prepare and improve performance. It also outlines the procedures for planners to secure professional access to barristers. 

The advice refers to the procedures that apply in England, Wales and Scotland. 

Sarah Lewis, RTPI Planning Practice Officer, said:

“Being a chartered member of the RTPI is a mark of professional standing and therefore RTPI members are often asked to appear as expert witnesses.

"It can be a daunting experience but it need not be if approached with the adequate time and care to prepare for it. We hope this practice note will go some way in helping our members get the most out of this important facet of their work.” 

PEBA said:

“We are pleased to have had a hand in drafting this Expert Witness practice advice which provides an insight into the role of giving expert evidence in a planning appeal context, along with some practical tips to make the presentation run smoothly."

Read the practice note here.