The process

The Planning Act 2008 (PA2008) process was introduced to streamline the decision-making process for major infrastructure projects, making it fairer and faster for communities and applicants alike.

Short film explaining the process

The six stages in the process are:


Before submitting an application, potential applicants have a statutory duty to carry out consultation on their proposals. The length of time taken to prepare and consult on a project will vary depending upon its scale and complexity. Responding to an applicant’s Pre-application consultation is the best time to influence a project, whether you agree with it, disagree with it, or believe it could be improved.

The Planning Inspectorate cannot consider representations about the merits of a proposed application at the Pre-application stage of the process. For advice about how to engage with the process at the Pre-application stage read our Community Consultation FAQ.


The Acceptance stage begins when an applicant submits an application for development consent to the Planning Inspectorate. There follows a period of up to 28 days (excluding the date of receipt of the application) for the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State, to decide whether or not the application meets the standards required to be  accepted for examination.


At this stage, the public will be able to register with the Planning Inspectorate to become an Interested Party by making a Relevant Representation. A Relevant Representation is a summary of a person’s views on an application, made in writing. An Examining Authority is also appointed at the Pre-examination stage, and all Interested Parties will be invited to attend a Preliminary Meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority. Although there is no statutory timescale for this stage of the process, it usually takes approximately three months from the Applicant’s formal notification and publicity of an accepted application.


The Planning Inspectorate has up to six months to carry out the examination. During this stage Interested Parties who have registered by making a Relevant Representation are invited to provide more details of their views in writing. Careful consideration is given by the Examining Authority to all the important and relevant matters including the representations of all Interested Parties, any supporting evidence submitted and answers provided to the Examining Authority’s questions set out in writing or posed at hearings.

Recommendation and Decision

The Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report on the application to the relevant Secretary of State, including a recommendation, within three months of the close of the six month Examination stage. The relevant Secretary of State then has a further three months to make the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.

Post decision

Once a decision has been issued by the relevant Secretary of State, there is a six week period in which the decision may be challenged in the High Court. This process of legal challenge is known as Judicial Review.

Short film on the role of local authorities in the process

Diagram of the process

Application process diagram

Click to enlarge