Billy Smith -v- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and South Buckinghamshire District Council  EWHC 935 (Admin) 1 April 2014
The Appellant in this case sought permission for a Gypsy site in the Green Belt. This was refused by the local authority and also by the Planning Inspector. He appealed against the Inspector’s decision.
The appeal was dismissed.
One of the grounds of appeal was that the Inspector’s draft decision was read by the Inspector’s “training mentor and by [the] reading unit”. In the appeal the Appellant argued that this meant that the Inspector had acted improperly.
In dismissing this ground of appeal, Mr C M G Ockelton (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) stated:-
28. …Mentors give general guidance on the approach to casework, advise on any weaknesses in reasoning in draft decisions, or suggest improvements or angles that need to be considered. They do not seek to change the outcome of appeals, which is always solely a matter for the appointed inspector. The inspector’s mentor made a few comments, none of which had any relevance to the merits of the case or the outcome of the appeal. The Reading Unit’s function is to maintain the quality and consistency of decisions.
31….The claimant’s general submissions that the existence of a mentor or the reading unit damages the inspector’s independence are without merit, and the particular allegations made in the present case are also without merit. There was nothing wrong with Mr Green [the planning consultant who represented the Appellant before the Inspector] raising the issue; but the material disclosed demonstrates that there was no substance in his suspicions. The material upon which Mr Masters [barrister for the Appellant] relied was wholly insufficient to establish the serious allegation he made. In my judgment, the allegation that the inspector behaved improperly was totally without foundation and ought not to have been advanced”.