Neighbourhood Planning Independent Examiner Referral Service (NPIERS) is a cost-efficient service which supports the neighbourhood planning process by providing quick and easy access to impartial and highly qualified examiners on an 'as needed' basis. It also provides clarity on how much an examination will cost.


Reforms to the planning system have put communities centre-stage, and encourage collaboration on planning at the neighbourhood level. All of this is putting increasing pressure on time and budgets during an uncertain period of economic austerity.

A number of industry bodies have developed an independent panel of highly competent professionals who can act as independent examiners quickly and with minimum cost. 

This resource has been developed by the following organisations, with support from the Department of Communities and Local Government:

Why use NPIERS? 

This service has been developed as a key source of independent examiners. It provides communities and local authorities with an accessible service which guarantees high levels of knowledge, professional standards and integrity.

You are able to apply for free to NPIERS for either, a pre-submission health check review of your neighbourhood plan, or the referral of examiners who are able to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan.

Using NPIERS gives you the assurance that the person referred:

  • Has the skills and experience that meet your particular criteria
  • Is available as and when needed
  • Is independent and free from conflicts of interest
  • Has been trained and assessed to undertake neighbourhood plan examinations by POS, RICS, RTPI, with support from community bodies
  • Is drawn from various professions including RICS, RTPI, POS, RIBA, ICE, IHT etc.  This means they are all normally professionally qualified, and regulated members of at least one professional body
  • Has appropriate professional indemnity insurance
  • Is continually monitored to ensure they maintain performance and standards
  • Will cost only £750 plus VAT per day (plus reasonable expenses) to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan, or, £375 plus VAT per day (plus reasonable expenses) to undertake a pre-submission health check review of your neighbourhood plan.

Health check

It is a challenge for those involved in writing and submitting a neighbourhood plan for examination.  A lot of time and effort will be spent preparing the Plan, which will then be scrutinised by an independent examiner who will judge whether it can proceed to referendum, or not.  A health check is an opportunity for the draft Plan to be reviewed against the basic conditions by an NPIERS panel member.

The review will look into whether the draft Plan meets the basic conditions and provide advice on any potential amendments required to ensure the plan meets the basic conditions. This will not involve the re-writing of the policies but general advice on what changes need to be made.

Health check endorsement

Initially Allerdale Borough Council used the health check review service offered by NPIERS in order to ensure that the proposed Cockermouth Neighbourhood Development Order met the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements. This proved to be a worthwhile exercise as not only did the review highlight some minor shortcomings in this regard it also identified elements of the proposed Order that required modification. The Council again opted to use NPIERS to ensure the appointment of a suitably qualified person to conduct the examination, with the ability to specify specific specialist skills considered important for the examiner to hold being a strong determining factor given the complex provisions of the proposed Order. The Council have been very pleased with NPIERS following their swift referral of highly qualified candidate examiners in both instances and would certainly recommend the service to other local (planning) authorities

To request the referral of up to three examiners who are able to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan, please read the explanatory notes (included in the form) and complete the NPIERS1 Application Form, which can be downloaded below.

To request a health check of your neighbourhood plan, please read the explanatory notes (included in the form) and complete the NPIERS2 Application Form, which can be downloaded below.

NPIERS has recently produced a list of ‘Top Tips’ on independent examination of a neighbourhood plan or a neighbourhood development order, for Local Planning Authorities.  The Top Tips are available to download below.

Examination process

One of the partners of NPIERS, Planning Aid England, has recently published a case study of the Kirdford Neighbourhood Plan examination.  The case study provides a valuable insight into how the process of an examination is undertaken.

Contact us


Gemma Beasley, DRS Operations Manager
t: 020 7695 1543

Mushtaq Ahmed, Deputy Appointments Service Manager
t: 024 7686 8349

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