Advice Note 8.6: Virtual examination events

Woman watching virtual event on computer

The Planning Inspectorate is delivering some of its National Infrastructure casework using virtual examination events. This Advice Note is aimed at people and organisations who will be involved in the examination of an application for a Development Consent Order where virtual events will be used.

Jump to section:

  1. Introduction
  2. What is the difference between a physical event and a virtual event?
  3. How do virtual events work?
  4. How will I be notified if an examination event is going ahead on a virtual basis?
  5. The Arrangements Conference
  6. Involvement at virtual events
  7. Virtual Preliminary Meetings
  8. Virtual hearings – general
  9. Approaching different types of virtual hearings
  10. Virtual Accompanied Site Inspections
  11. Annex A: Participation in very large virtual examination events

1. Introduction

1.1 The Planning Act 2008 (PA2008) establishes an inquisitorial and predominantly written process for the examination of applications for Development Consent Orders (DCO). All written evidence submitted to an examination is published on the relevant project page on this website, which enables Interested Parties and the public to read the evidence and respond to it in writing to timetabled deadlines. A Preliminary Meeting and certain types of hearings must be held in accordance with the PA2008. The oral process is supplementary to the written process.


Written submissions to an examination carry the same weight as oral submissions.


1.2 In the same way physical or ‘in person’ hearings are engaged, virtual hearings will only be held where the Examining Authority decides that it needs to hear oral evidence in order to adequately test an issue (at an Issue Specific Hearing), or where an Interested Party exercises their right be heard (at an Open Floor Hearing or a Compulsory Acquisition Hearing).

1.3 Interested Parties will be notified in advance that an examination or part of an examination will be carried out using virtual events. All notifications are also published on the relevant project page on this website. This Advice Note explains the procedures associated with virtual events and how to get involved.


The Planning Inspectorate initially developed virtual events in response to Government advice about limiting the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by maintaining social distancing and avoiding non-essential travel. However, the Planning Inspectorate is considering how virtual events may offer wider efficiency benefits, including time and cost savings, for the people and organisations involved in the examinations, hearings and inquiries that the Inspectorate carries out. On this basis, virtual events may be used more broadly; even after there are no Coronavirus restrictions in force.


1.4 This Advice Note adds to the existing Advice Note Eight series; particularly Advice Note 8.3 (the Preliminary Meeting) and Advice Note 8.5 (Hearings and Site Inspections). It adapts the advice provided in these documents to incorporate virtual events.

2. What is the difference between a physical event and a virtual event?

2.1 Examinations under the PA2008 can involve the following events held in public:

  • Preliminary Meetings;
  • Issue Specific Hearings;
  • Compulsory Acquisition Hearings; and
  • Open Floor Hearings.

2.2 Where these events take place in a physical location such as a local government office, public hall, conference centre or hotel, Interested Parties attend in person to make oral submissions and to listen and respond to the oral submissions made by others. Members of the public can attend to observe. We have always published an audio recording of these events as a record of the examination.

2.3 Examinations may also involve the following types of events which also involve in-person interaction between the Examining Authority, the Planning Inspectorate’s Case Team and Interested Parties:

  • Accompanied Site Inspections (‘site visits’); and
  • Other Meetings (where held under s88(5) and s95 of the PA2008).

2.4 Virtual events are held using systems which enable Interested Parties to participate from remote locations, such as their own homes or offices. Participants join by clicking on a link in an email invitation or by dialling a phone number. Virtual events are held on the same basis and are subject to the same provisions of the PA2008 as physical events.

3. How do virtual events work?

3.1 The Planning Inspectorate uses Microsoft Teams to provide access to virtual events. Microsoft Teams is a secure digital conference and meetings application that allows several people to speak and interact with each other in a virtual forum. Involvement can be by video, where attendees can see and hear each other, or audio, where they can hear each other; or a mixture of both. Attendees can join from digital devices like personal computers (PCs), laptops, tablets and smartphones; or from analogue devices, like landline telephones and mobile telephones that aren’t smartphones.

Use of technology in virtual examination events

Use of technology in virtual examination events – click to enlarge

3.2 You do not need to be a computer expert or be able to install software to use Microsoft Teams, you simply open the link sent to you. If you do not own a computer, tablet or smartphone, you will be able to use a telephone instead via the telephone number sent to you or access the link from a public access internet-enabled computer (eg in a library booth). The telephone number will be a national rate call (not a premium rate) and may be included in your phone package.


Detailed advice about how to join a Microsoft Teams meeting, including technical specifications, is provided in the Planning Inspectorate’s corporate guide to being involved in a virtual event.


4. How will I be notified if an examination event is going ahead on a virtual basis?

4.1 The Examining Authority will set out in its letter inviting Interested Parties to the Preliminary Meeting (known as the Rule 6 letter) if it intends to carry out the Preliminary Meeting as a virtual event. The Rule 6 letter may also include details of the Examining Authority’s intention to hold any examination hearings as virtual events. Interested Parties may also be asked questions about their ability to be involved in a virtual event and/or receive case-specific Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) dealing with the virtual procedure.

4.2 Any hearings that the Examining Authority has decided will proceed as virtual events will be advertised as such by the Applicant and in the Examining Authority’s formal notification of the hearing(s) which must be issued to all Interested Parties at least 21 days in advance of the virtual hearing taking place.

4.3 The Rule 6 letter and/or the letter providing notice of a hearing(s) will set a deadline by which Interested Parties must confirm to the Examining Authority that they wish to be involved in the virtual event. These letters may include a link to a website where anybody can view a livestream of the event (see paras 6.4 and 6.5, below). Interested Parties who will be involved at the virtual event will be sent a separate email containing important information about the virtual event including a link to access the event in Microsoft Teams and a telephone number to dial-in to the event in Microsoft Teams, if required (see the example email below). Interested Parties who cannot access the internet will be provided with joining instructions by telephone or letter.

Example email containing virtual event joining instructions

Example email containing virtual event joining instructions – click to enlarge

5. The Arrangements Conference

5.1 Unless you are notified otherwise, immediately before every virtual event the Planning Inspectorate’s Case Team will host an Arrangements Conference. The Case Team is the team of Planning Inspectorate officers who support the Examining Authority. The Examining Authority will not be in attendance during the Arrangements Conference. If you are attending the subsequent Preliminary Meeting or hearing you must attend the Arrangements Conference in order to authenticate your involvement at the meeting. The Arrangements Conference also provides an opportunity for the Case Team to share important information with the participants about the procedure for the virtual event and answer any questions that Interested Parties may have.

5.2 The Arrangements Conference is accessed via the same link as the formal virtual event. When you join the event in Microsoft Teams you will arrive in a virtual lobby. The lobby will display or play a message that the meeting organiser will admit you to the meeting shortly. The Case Team will admit attendees to the Arrangements Conference one-by-one. This can take a little while, so please be patient and do not try to reconnect. The Case Team knows you are waiting and will attend to your admission as soon as they possibly can.

5.3 The virtual Preliminary Meeting or virtual hearing will always start at the formally notified time, after the Arrangements Conference has finished. Attendees are asked to stay logged-in to the Arrangements Conference, which will automatically transition into the virtual Preliminary Meeting or hearing when the Examining Authority joins the event at the notified time.

The arrangements conference

The arrangements conference – click to enlarge

6. Involvement at virtual events

6.1 In most cases, where there are an average number of Interested Parties involved in an examination, the Planning Inspectorate expects that Examining Authorities will be able to uphold all requests to participate at a virtual Preliminary Meeting and/or any virtual hearings that are held.

6.2 For a variety of reasons it is not possible to run successful virtual events in which very large numbers of people participate live at the same time. For examinations with a very large number of Interested Parties involved, Examining Authorities may need to hold a virtual event in a series of parts or sessions and/or can offer a livestream of the event so Interested Parties can make written submissions about the oral evidence they have heard.

6.3 The approach to participation where very large numbers of Interested Parties wish to be involved at an event is set out in Annex A below. The Examining Authority’s Rule 6 letter will always establish whether the examination will engage the approach set out at Annex A.

Livestreaming

6.4 ‘Livestreaming’ refers to the live transmission of an event over the internet, enabling people to listen to and/or watch an event on the internet in real-time.

6.5 For all examinations, a decision will be taken on a case-by-case basis by the Planning Inspectorate about whether virtual events will offer livestreaming. This decision will be taken in consideration of the individual circumstances of the case, including:

  • The number of registered and other Interested Parties;
  • the scale of the application and the complexity of the issues associated with it; and
  • the needs of Interested Parties.

Good practice points

6.6 The Planning Inspectorate has identified a series of good practice points to assist those involved and facilitate the smooth running of virtual examination events.

Before the virtual event…

  • Respond on time to any requests for information made by the Examining Authority
  • Familiarise yourself with relevant content in this Advice Note and read all of the information in the invitation to/notification of the virtual event that the Examining Authority has sent to you
  • If you will be represented at the event by an agent or lawyer, consider and make a plan about how you will communicate confidentially in the course of the virtual event
  • Make sure the device you will be using to access the event is fully charged, or attached to mains power, so you do not get cut-off from the event
  • Let the Case Team know by the deadline set if you wish to refer to written evidence in the Examination Library (including plans, images etc) onscreen during the virtual event
  • If you are the Applicant, by the deadline set provide the Case Team with web-optimised versions of any plans that will need to be shared onscreen in the course of the virtual event
  • Attend a testing and familiarisation session (see para 6.6, below)
  • If you do not understand something, or need assistance in preparing to be involved in a virtual event, contact the Case Team in reasonable advance of the virtual event taking place

During the virtual event…

  • Be in a quiet, private place and tell everyone in your location you must not be interrupted
  • If you will be using video, set your camera so that you’re looking straight into it so your face can be seen properly – make sure the view behind you is neutral or blurred (a background blurring function is available in Microsoft Teams)
  • Join the Arrangements Conference lobby a few minutes before it is scheduled to start
  • When you join the lobby, wait patiently for the Case Team to admit you to the Arrangements Conference – this can sometimes take up to 15 minutes
  • During the Arrangements Conference, listen to the information provided by the Case Team. This information will include important procedural and behavioural advice for during and after the virtual event
  • During the virtual Preliminary Meeting or hearing, listen carefully to the Examining Authority. The virtual event will be led by the member of the Examining Authority who has been nominated as chair. The chair will introduce participants, guide discussion and lead questions
  • To avoid potentially disruptive background noise, mute your microphone when you are not contributing to the virtual event. If background noise generated by your microphone is disrupting the event, the Case Team may have to mute your microphone without seeking your consent
  • Have a copy of the agenda available to you (either a printed copy or in a separate tab/window on your device)
  • Each time you speak state your name and, if applicable, who you are representing
  • If you lose connection to the virtual event, or cannot connect to the virtual event, you can either dial into the conference using the phone conference details in the invite or contact the Case Team for assistance

6.7 The Planning Inspectorate is able to offer virtual event participants the opportunity to attend a testing and familiarisation session in Microsoft Teams. The arrangements for these sessions, which take place before the day of the formal virtual event, will be communicated to participants by the Case Team.

7. Virtual Preliminary Meetings

7.1 Interested Parties will be notified of the date of the Preliminary Meeting and, where applicable, of the Examining Authority’s intention to hold the Preliminary Meeting on a virtual basis in the Rule 6 letter. If a virtual Preliminary Meeting is to be held, the appendices to the Rule 6 letter will contain important information about:

  • How and by when Interested Parties must confirm to the Examining Authority that they wish to participate at the virtual Preliminary Meeting;
  • how to access and be involved in the virtual Preliminary Meeting;
  • how and by when Interested Parties must confirm to the Examining Authority that they wish for specific Examination Documents to be displayed on screen during the virtual Preliminary Meeting; and
  • how the virtual Preliminary Meeting will be managed by the Planning Inspectorate, including FAQs concerning the virtual procedure.

7.2 The Rule 6 letter will also include as an annex an agenda for the virtual Preliminary Meeting. Because the ability to participate in a virtual Preliminary Meeting relies on individual Interested Parties being provided with a joining link or a telephone number (see the example email above), it is important that Interested Parties consider the agenda, think about whether it is necessary that they speak and where applicable confirm that they wish to be involved by the deadline set in the Rule 6 letter. Interested Parties who do not let the Examining Authority know that they wish to participate by the deadline set, and therefore do not receive joining instructions by email/telephone/letter, will be unable to be involved at the virtual Preliminary Meeting.

7.3 If an Interested Party does not confirm that they wish to participate at the virtual Preliminary Meeting, they will still be able to watch a published video of the event (and/or watch a livestream of the event where this is being provided,  see paras 6.4 and 6.5, above) and make written submissions to the agenda, or in response to the oral representations made at the virtual Preliminary Meeting by other Interested Parties.

7.4 Physical or ‘in person’ Preliminary Meetings are normally opened and closed on the same day. For small virtual Preliminary Meetings (eg attracting 35 or fewer participants), the Examining Authority may decide that the virtual Preliminary Meeting can be undertaken in one session; opening and closing on the same day.

7.5 Where required, virtual Preliminary Meetings may take place in two parts, on two separate days, with an adjournment period of several days in-between:

  1. Part 1: The virtual Preliminary Meeting agenda is heard with involvement from Interested Parties who confirmed participation. A livestream of the event may be offered in some cases (see paras 6.4 and 6.5, above) so other Interested Parties and the public can watch the event in real-time. The virtual Preliminary Meeting is then adjourned until the date of Part 2.
  2. Adjournment: During the adjournment period the video recording of the virtual Preliminary Meeting is published on the relevant project page on this website. Interested Parties who did not attend Part 1, or who viewed a livestream of the event where one was provided, can make written submissions to the agenda and/or in response to the oral representations made at the virtual Preliminary Meeting by other Interested Parties. If no written submissions are received to the deadline set, or the content of the written submissions in the Examining Authority’s opinion does not need to be explored orally, the Examining Authority may decide that it does not need to reconvene the Preliminary Meeting and can formally close the meeting through a written Procedural Decision sent to all Interested Parties.
  3. Part 2: If required, the virtual Preliminary Meeting is reopened for the Examining Authority to confirm how it has had regard to any written submissions received. Interested Parties who made written submissions may be invited to attend Part 2 to make oral submissions. The virtual Preliminary Meeting is then closed formally, and the Examination of the application begins on the following day.
The two-part virtual Preliminary Meeting

The two-part virtual Preliminary Meeting – click to enlarge


Written submissions to a Preliminary Meeting carry the same weight as oral submissions.


7.6 For very large Preliminary Meetings at which very large numbers of Interested Parties request to participate, the Examining Authority may decide to carry out Part 1 of the virtual Preliminary Meeting in two or more sessions, separated by short adjournment periods. In these circumstances Examining Authorities may also request for Interested Parties to submit written summaries of the oral representations they intend to make to a deadline set in advance of the virtual Preliminary Meeting.

8. Virtual hearings – general

8.1 Interested Parties will have received notice of the Examining Authority’s intention to hold virtual hearings in the Rule 6 letter (in practice, the Rule 6 letter may also include the formal notification of early examination hearings (shortly after the Preliminary Meeting) that are to be held on a virtual basis). The role of virtual hearings in the examination will be confirmed in the letter confirming the Procedural Decisions made by the Examining Authority at or following the Preliminary Meeting (known as the Rule 8 letter).

8.2 Separately, the Examining Authority will issue notification of the virtual hearing(s) to all Interested Parties at least 21 days before the event is scheduled to take place. This notification will include a draft agenda for the virtual hearing(s) (for Open Floor Hearings and Type 2 Compulsory Acquisition Hearings, the Examining Authority may decide not to issue an agenda) and important information about:

  • How and by when Interested Parties must confirm to the Examining Authority their wish to be involved at the virtual hearing(s);
  • how to access and be involved in the virtual hearing(s);
  • how and by when Interested Parties must confirm to the Examining Authority that they wish for specific Examination Documents to be displayed on screen during the virtual hearing; and
  • how the virtual hearing(s) will be managed by the Planning Inspectorate, including FAQs concerning the virtual procedure.

8.3 Following the same process as Preliminary Meetings, because the ability to participate in a virtual hearing relies on individual Interested Parties being provided with a joining link or a telephone number, it is important that Interested Parties consider the agenda, think about whether it is necessary that they speak and where applicable confirm that they wish to be involved by the deadline set in the Rule 6 letter and/or the letter providing notice of the hearing. Interested Parties who do not let the Examining Authority know that they wish to participate at a hearing by the deadline set, and therefore do not receive an joining instructions by email/telephone/letter, will be unable to be involved at the virtual hearing.

8.4 In the same way as for a physical hearing, a final agenda for each examination hearing will be published on the relevant project webpage on this website about a week before the virtual hearing is scheduled to take place.

8.5 If an Interested Party does not confirm that they wish to participate at the virtual hearing, they will still be able to watch a published video of the event and/or watch a livestream of the event if one is being provided (see paras 6.3 and 6.4, above) and make written submissions to the agenda, or in response to the oral representations made at the virtual hearing by other Interested Parties.


Written submissions to an examination hearing carry the same weight as oral submissions.


9. Approaching different types of virtual hearings 

9.1 There are three types of hearings that can be held in an examination under the PA2008:

  • Issue Specific Hearings;
  • Open Floor Hearings; and
  • Compulsory Acquisition Hearings.

9.2 Each type of hearing is subject to different legal provisions and, by extension, different procedures. This means that where different types of hearings are held on a virtual basis, the approach may be different in each case.

Virtual Issue Specific Hearings

9.3 An Issue Specific Hearing is held where the Examining Authority considers that it needs to hear oral evidence to assist its examination of a specific issue eg noise, air quality, the draft DCO.

9.4 The process by which Interested Parties decide whether they wish to request to be involved in a virtual Issue Specific Hearing is the same as in the general approach described in section 8, above. It is summarised below.

The virtual Issue Specific Hearing

The virtual Issue Specific Hearing – click to enlarge

Virtual Open Floor Hearings

9.5 An Open Floor Hearing is held when one or more Interested Parties requests to be heard in respect of any of the matters they have raised in a previous Relevant Representation or Written Representation.

9.6 For a virtual Open Floor Hearing the Examining Authority may either:

  • Adopt an approach where all participants attend at the same time and speak in order (where numbers allow); or
  • adopt an appointment-based system (tends to be used where a very large number of Interested Parties wish to participate).
The virtual Open Floor Hearing (not appointment-based)

The virtual Open Floor Hearing (not appointment-based) – click to enlarge

9.7 In the appointment-based system, Interested Parties will be allocated a time at which they are invited to access the virtual event and speak. The allocated time for the Interested Party will be included in the email/letter containing the joining instructions.

9.8 Unless notified otherwise, an Arrangements Conference will still take place for Open Floor Hearings held under the appointment-based system (see section 5, above). At the end of the Arrangements Conference for an appointment-based Open Floor Hearing, participants may either:

  • Remain logged-in and observe the Open Floor Hearing until it is their allocated time to speak; or
  • log-out of the Arrangements Conference and re-join during the Open Floor Hearing about five minutes before the time allocated for them to speak.

9.9 At the end of the virtual Open Floor Hearing the Examining Authority may give the Applicant, which is likely to have been observing, an opportunity to respond to the oral representations made by the Interested Parties. This is the same practice as at physical Open Floor Hearings.

Virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearings

9.10 A Compulsory Acquisition Hearing is held when either:

  • The Examining Authority decides that it needs to hear oral evidence about the Applicant’s case for Compulsory Acquisition and associated powers; and/or
  • one or more Affected Persons requests to be heard on matters relating to the proposed Compulsory Acquisition or Temporary Possession of their land and/or interests in land.

9.11 On this basis, there are two types of virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearings that may be undertaken:

  • Type 1 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing – To hear oral representations made by the Applicant and other relevant Interested Parties about the Applicant’s overarching case for Compulsory Acquisition and associated powers.
  • Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing – To hear oral representations made by Affected Persons about the impacts of the Proposed Development on their land and interests.

9.12 Examining Authorities may decide to hold a Compulsory Acquisition Hearing that combines elements of the above two types.

9.13 The way in which an Interested Party becomes involved in a Type 1 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing follows the same process as for a virtual Issue Specific Hearing.

The Type 1 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing

The Type 1 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing – click to enlarge

9.14 For a Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing the Examining Authority may either:

  • Adopt the same procedure as for a Type 1 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing, set out above; or
  • adopt an appointment-based system.

9.15 Unless notified otherwise, an Arrangements Conference will take place for both types of virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing (see section 5, above). At the end of the Arrangements Conference for a Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing, which is an appointment-based hearing for Affected Persons to give evidence at allocated times, Affected Persons may either:

  • Remain logged-in and observe the Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing until it is their allocated time to speak; or
  • log-out of the Arrangements Conference and re-join during the Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing about five minutes before the time allocated for them to speak.

9.16 At the end of the Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing the Examining Authority may give the Applicant, which is likely to have been observing, an opportunity to respond to the oral representations made by Affected Persons.

The Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing (not appointment-based)

The Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing (not appointment-based) – click to enlarge

The Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing (appointment-based)

The Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing (appointment-based) – click to enlarge

10. Virtual Accompanied Site Inspections

10.1 Under the PA2008 process Examining Authorities can carry out two types of site inspection:

  • Accompanied Site Inspection: Undertaken by the Examining Authority in the course of an examination with Interested Parties, including the Applicant, in attendance where the Examining Authority considers it necessary.
  • Unaccompanied Site Inspection: Undertaken by the Examining Authority alone, without Interested Parties in attendance, at any time after the Examining Authority has been appointed at the Pre-Examination stage of the process.

10.2 When the Examining Authority has determined that a physical Accompanied Site Inspection is necessary, the date, time and meeting place are notified to all Interested Parties who must respond to the Planning Inspectorate to confirm whether they wish to attend by the deadline specified in the notification. For practical reasons the Planning Inspectorate may need to limit the number of attendees. An itinerary for the inspection is published on the relevant project webpage on this website along with important information about logistics for the day. Accompanied Site Inspections are only for Interested Parties to point out physical features of the site and surroundings; they are not to talk to the Examining Authority about the merits of the Proposed Development; those submissions should be made in writing.

10.3 Physical Unaccompanied Site Inspections are carried out at the convenience of the Examining Authority and are not notified to Interested Parties in advance. A note of the Unaccompanied Site Inspection may be published on the relevant project page on this website as soon as practicable after the inspection has been carried out.

10.4 Like other virtual events, a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection will be held using Microsoft Teams and may make use of various visual media including:

  • Plans, drawings, photomontages/photographs and videos/drone footage included in the application documents (or supplements to the application documents);
  • plans, drawings, photomontages/photographs and videos/drone footage included in evidence submitted by the Applicant and other Interested Parties;
  • live video footage; and
  • Google Earth.

10.5 Google Earth is an online mapping application (or ‘geobrowser’) that uses satellite, aerial, 3D, and Street View images to represent geographic locations. It is free to download at Google Earth. Whilst Google Earth is a valuable tool to assist navigation and place formal examination evidence in context, the Planning Inspectorate recognises that images provided in Google Earth have various limitations, including:

  • The age of the image (images aren’t in real time, so you won’t see recent or live changes);
  • the coverage of Google Earth (some areas are not mapped);
  • the quality of the image (eg resolution/distortion); and
  • difficulty judging scale/distance etc on a two-dimensional screen.

The images represented in Google Earth during a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection are not examination evidence and cannot be relied upon by the Examining Authority or other Interested Parties.


10.6 The Examining Authority will ask Interested Parties in advance of a scheduled virtual Accompanied Site Inspection to advise by a specified deadline:

  • Whether they wish to be involved in the event;
  • to nominate locations to include in the itinerary; and
  • to identify any Examination Library evidence that they wish for the Examining Authority to refer to before or during the virtual Accompanied Site Inspection.

10.7 The itinerary for the virtual Accompanied Site Inspection will be published on the relevant project page on this website in advance of the event. It will include a list of the Examination Library evidence that the Examining Authority and Interested Parties may refer to in the course of the virtual event.

10.8 Interested Parties who attend a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection must be able to access the virtual event on a PC, laptop or mobile device. Because of the inherent reliance on visual images, Interested Parties will not be able to be involved in a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection using an analogue telephone. Interested Parties without access to a PC, laptop or mobile device at home will still be able to be involved in a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection by using a public access internet-enabled computer (eg in a library booth).

10.9 If you are unable to attend a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection, you can make written submissions about the published itinerary to the Examining Authority either before or after the event.

How a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection works

How a virtual Accompanied Site Inspection works – click to enlarge

11. Annex A: Participation in very large examinations

11.1 The Planning Act 2008 establishes a predominantly written process. Points raised in writing carry the same weight as those made orally and the Relevant Representations form the basis on which the Examination is structured so it is important that everyone submits their main points in writing at this point. The Preliminary Meeting, and the written submissions to it, aid the Examining Authority in refining the structure of the process.

11.2 Where interest is high and to ensure that virtual system capacity is managed effectively, the Examining Authority will consider carefully how best to arrange live participation access, including where livestreaming will assist engagement for those parties who do not wish to speak at the session. The recording of the session will also be available for any follow-up written submissions before the Examination starts.

11.3 All Interested Parties wishing to speak at an Open Floor Hearing and Affected Persons wishing to speak at a Compulsory Acquisition Hearing will be given the opportunity to do so. All other requests are at the discretion of the Examining Authority. Where the number of Interested Parties wishing to speak is very high, the Examining Authority may need to allocate a time-limit for each speaker. These principles remain the same whether an Examination event is physical or virtual.

11.4 Where matters, issues and questions are complex, disputed or require clarification, the Examination will always provide a place for live representations and to ask their own questions if necessary, in addition to those they will issue in writing. It is, however, not necessary to simply amplify a representation made in writing or to highlight agreement or disagreement with others in a hearing. Such involvements are best addressed in writing.

11.5 Interested Parties (including Affected Persons) wishing to speak must advise the Case Team by the relevant specified deadline so that their wish can be taken into consideration when the Examining Authority is planning the agenda for the event. They will then also be provided with a live participation link for joining the virtual event.

11.6 Interested Parties (including Affected Persons) who do not wish to speak, or members of the public, may receive a link to a livestream for viewing or listening to the proceedings and an audio/video recording of the event will be published shortly after the close of each session.

How events are organised for very large examinations

How virtual events are organised for very large examinations

How virtual events are organised for very large examinations – click to enlarge

11.7 For very large virtual events, the Examining Authority will ask Interested Parties to confirm whether they wish to be a Core Participant, Occasional Participant or Observer in the letter inviting them to the virtual Preliminary Meeting (known as the Rule 6 letter) or the letter notifying them of a virtual hearing. If an Interested Party wishes to be involved in an event, they must confirm to the Examining Authority whether they wish to be a Core Participant, Occasional Participant or Observer by a specified deadline. This confirmation process will be repeated for each virtual examination event that is scheduled to take place. This means that an Interested Party who is an Occasional Participant at the virtual Preliminary Meeting may still be a Core Participant at later virtual examination hearings.


Because there is a statutory right to be heard at such hearings, Interested Parties who request to speak at an Open Floor Hearing or Type 2 virtual Compulsory Acquisition Hearing will always have Core Participant status.


11.8 The Examining Authority will always try to provide all Interested Parties with the type of involvement that they request. However, in circumstances where there are technical limits on the numbers of participants engaging in the discussions, the performance of networks and the availability of technology, the Examining Authority may not be able to grant all requests. Interested Parties who ask to be involved as Core Participants using a video or audio link from a computer or tablet may be asked to use a telephone link instead. Interested Parties who ask to be involved as Core Participants may be asked to be involved as Occasional Participants.

11.9 Before making Procedural Decisions about types of involvement, the Examining Authority will always consider:

  • Advice about the technical capability and performance of Microsoft Teams and the network, taking account of the numbers of Interested Parties involved and any other matters likely to affect network performance;
  • any specific request by an individual Interested Party together with the complexity of the matters raised by their Relevant Representation and the need to probe or discuss these matters or other written submissions; and
  • the individual circumstances of the Interested Party.

The type of involvement that an Interested Party has at a virtual examination event does not affect their statutory rights as an Interested Party.