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Examinations – Top Tips 
Andrew Ashcroft 
Independent Examiner 
Assistant Director – Economic Environment and Cultural 
Services, Herefordshire Council
By way of background 
• 74 Neighbourhood Parish areas now designated in 
Herefordshire 
• 134 Parishes – still some way to go… 
• Dedicated neighbourhood planning team of three officers 
• Independent examination of Much Wenlock Plan 
(Shropshire) 
• NPIERS member 
• Sutton St Nicholas Steering Group member
Strong civic pride 
High quality environment
Vibrant Market Town
Widescale community involvement 
Low crime rates
Particular environmental issues
Vibrant Steering Group
Learning from other examinations 
• A critical mass of experience now 
developing on process 
• A variety of neighbourhood plans 
coming through to examination 
• Common themes 
• Common approaches taken by 
examiners 
• Clear learning points 
• The process is clearly working
The Basic Conditions 
• Designed to be basic 
• Get these right at all costs 
• Without exception examiners test 
Plans against these conditions 
• Basic but not restrictive – your 
foundation for success 
• Examiners have considerable 
flexibility to recommend 
modifications 
• Most modifications are on clarity 
and conformity to NPPF
Public Engagement gives confidence 
• Examiners check that engagement 
has been fully carried out 
• They often give positive feedback 
• It gives assurance that the Plan is 
properly owned 
• It gives confidence that the Plan has 
been informed by public debate 
• It underpins an eventual referendum
Examiners giving a helping hand 
• Examiners propose modifications to ensure 
that Plans meet the basic conditions 
• These modifications have been many and 
varied 
• Modifications extend to deletion of 
policies/allocations 
• And do not change content/focus – it 
remains your Plan 
• Often comment on focus/enthusiasm/vigour 
of Plan 
• Recognise that you are making the Localism 
Act a reality
Top Tips - Appointment 
• LPA appoints but with agreement of the QB 
• Source an examiner once pre-submission 
consultation stage has been reached 
• Give as much information as you can on the 
application form: are any specialist skills needed? 
What are the key issues in the Plan or Order? Site 
allocations? 
• Be realistic about timing, level of risk etc.
Working with the examiner 
• Agree how the LPA, QB and examiner will work 
together 
• Useful to have one point of contact 
• The ‘big box’ of documents 
• How long will the examination take? Is there a 
deadline to meet? 
• How will you keep in touch? How often will you keep 
in touch? 
• Should there be a site visit?
Dealing with representations 
• Send copies to the examiner 
• A summary sheet is a very helpful addition 
• Dealing with late reps 
• ‘Ad hoc’ reps 
• Dealing with the public in general 
• Reps for or at the hearing 
• Fairness, openness and transparency
Issues to consider 
• How long will the examination take? A hearing will add time 
• Be realistic about timing and when to expect the report from 
the examiner 
• Bear in mind committee cycles and other internal procedures 
that will need to be followed once in receipt of the report 
• Does the QB have a date in mind? Has a referendum date 
already been suggested? 
• Do you want to allow a period for legal challenge?
Bear in mind 
• Steep learning curve for everyone – including examiners 
• Consistency of approach desirable between plans in your 
area 
• Each examiner may have a different way of working 
• Liaise and keep in touch with the QB 
• Don’t underestimate time or resources needed to do it 
properly 
• Post examination press and publicity 
• Process does not stop at examination stage

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NPIERS (Andrew Ashcroft) Neighbourhood Planning presentation

  • 1. Examinations – Top Tips Andrew Ashcroft Independent Examiner Assistant Director – Economic Environment and Cultural Services, Herefordshire Council
  • 2. By way of background • 74 Neighbourhood Parish areas now designated in Herefordshire • 134 Parishes – still some way to go… • Dedicated neighbourhood planning team of three officers • Independent examination of Much Wenlock Plan (Shropshire) • NPIERS member • Sutton St Nicholas Steering Group member
  • 3.
  • 4. Strong civic pride High quality environment
  • 9. Learning from other examinations • A critical mass of experience now developing on process • A variety of neighbourhood plans coming through to examination • Common themes • Common approaches taken by examiners • Clear learning points • The process is clearly working
  • 10. The Basic Conditions • Designed to be basic • Get these right at all costs • Without exception examiners test Plans against these conditions • Basic but not restrictive – your foundation for success • Examiners have considerable flexibility to recommend modifications • Most modifications are on clarity and conformity to NPPF
  • 11. Public Engagement gives confidence • Examiners check that engagement has been fully carried out • They often give positive feedback • It gives assurance that the Plan is properly owned • It gives confidence that the Plan has been informed by public debate • It underpins an eventual referendum
  • 12. Examiners giving a helping hand • Examiners propose modifications to ensure that Plans meet the basic conditions • These modifications have been many and varied • Modifications extend to deletion of policies/allocations • And do not change content/focus – it remains your Plan • Often comment on focus/enthusiasm/vigour of Plan • Recognise that you are making the Localism Act a reality
  • 13.
  • 14. Top Tips - Appointment • LPA appoints but with agreement of the QB • Source an examiner once pre-submission consultation stage has been reached • Give as much information as you can on the application form: are any specialist skills needed? What are the key issues in the Plan or Order? Site allocations? • Be realistic about timing, level of risk etc.
  • 15. Working with the examiner • Agree how the LPA, QB and examiner will work together • Useful to have one point of contact • The ‘big box’ of documents • How long will the examination take? Is there a deadline to meet? • How will you keep in touch? How often will you keep in touch? • Should there be a site visit?
  • 16. Dealing with representations • Send copies to the examiner • A summary sheet is a very helpful addition • Dealing with late reps • ‘Ad hoc’ reps • Dealing with the public in general • Reps for or at the hearing • Fairness, openness and transparency
  • 17. Issues to consider • How long will the examination take? A hearing will add time • Be realistic about timing and when to expect the report from the examiner • Bear in mind committee cycles and other internal procedures that will need to be followed once in receipt of the report • Does the QB have a date in mind? Has a referendum date already been suggested? • Do you want to allow a period for legal challenge?
  • 18. Bear in mind • Steep learning curve for everyone – including examiners • Consistency of approach desirable between plans in your area • Each examiner may have a different way of working • Liaise and keep in touch with the QB • Don’t underestimate time or resources needed to do it properly • Post examination press and publicity • Process does not stop at examination stage

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