The 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.
What is NPIERS?
Since April 2012, communities have been able to produce Neighbourhood Plans for their local area, putting in place planning policies for the future development and growth of the neighbourhood.
These changes to the planning system have put communities centre-stage, encouraging collaboration on planning at the neighbourhood level. The Neighbourhood Planning Independent Examiner Referral Service (NPIERS) has been introduced to support communities through this process.
Communities and local authorities can make applications to NPIERS free of charge to obtain an Independent Examiner from a panel of highly competent professionals. The panel is developed through key industry bodies working together to provide examiners with a wide spectrum of skills, knowledge and expertise, quickly and at minimum cost.
This resource has been developed by the following organisations with support from the Department of Communities and Local Government:
Why use NPIERS?
The service provides cost-efficient, quick and easy access to impartial and highly qualified examiners on an "as needed" basis.
You are able to apply for free to NPIERS for either a pre-submission health check review of your neighbourhood plan, or for the referral of examiners who are able to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan.
There is a set fee for examiners, and this provides transparency and clarity on how much an examination will cost. A real benefit of the service is that you only pay for the time you use the examiner.
Using NPIERS gives you the assurance that the person referred:
- Has the skills and experience that meet your particular criteria.
- Is assessed to the highest standards through a rigorous assessment interview with eminent professionals in the planning sector.
- Is available as and when needed.
- Is independent and free from conflicts of interest.
- Has been trained and assessed to undertake neighbourhood plan examinations and health checks by POS, RICS and RTPI with support from community bodies.
- Is drawn from various industry related professionals. 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.
What services does NPIERS offer?
As stated, you are able to apply for two services:
- A pre-submission health check review of your neighbourhood plan.
- A referral of an examiner to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan.
The health check
A health check is strongly advised to support parties; A lot of time and effort will be spent preparing a neighbourhood plan, which will then be scrutinised by an independent examiner who will judge whether it can proceed to referendum or not.
Using an examiner to undertake a health check before submitting a plan will give you an insight as to whether the draft Plan meets the basic conditions and if not, you will gain advice on any potential amendments required to ensure the plan meets the basic conditions. The health check does not involve the re-writing of the policies but gives general advice on what changes need to be made.
What is the cost for a health check?
NPIERS makes no charge for you to apply for an examiner. However, the examiner will make a charge of £375 plus VAT per day (plus any reasonable expenses) to undertake a pre-submission review of your neighbourhood plan.
Groups writing a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order are eligible to apply for a grant of up to £9,000. Groups facing a range of complex issues may able to apply for further support from the programme.
Further details on funding opportunities
How can I apply for a health check examiner?
If you would like to take advantage of this service please download and complete the NPIERS2 – Health Check Application Form and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org
The examination service allows for access to impartial examiners as and when needed. You should be thinking about sourcing an examiner once a draft neighbourhood plan or order has gone through its pre-submission consultation. Experience to date suggests that a typical written representations only examination will take around 4-6 days to complete and if the examination requires a public hearing this can take approximately 9-11 days. However examiners may well be working on other matters so this may not be consecutive days.
The examiner’s role will be to consider the submitted documents and any comments made during the consultation period on the submitted plan or proposal. The independent examiner will examine whether the plan meets the ‘Basic Conditions’ and other relevant legal requirements(e.g. consultation).
The independent examiner may recommend that the plan proceed to the referendum stage(i.e. it meets all the legal requirements) or may suggest that modifications are needed to the planbefore it can proceed to the referendum. They may also recommend that it does not proceed to the referendum.
To ensure your examination has the best opportunity of being approved, you may wish to consider a pre-submission health check before submitting the plan for examination.
What is the cost for an examination of a neighbourhood plan?
NPIERS makes no charge for you to apply for an examiner. However, the examiner will make a charge, of £750 plus VAT per day (plus reasonable expenses) to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan.
How can I apply for an examination?
To request the referral of examiner(s) who are able to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan, please complete the NPIERS1 Application Form and submit this to email@example.com
You are only required to supply details of the official web link to the plan with your application. No further supporting documentation is needed at this stage.
What do our customers think?
A 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.
How to be an examiner:
What is the NPIERS panel?
NPIERS has a panel of highly qualified and competent examiners. They are selected to undertake the examination review of neighbourhood plans to ensure they comply with the basic requirements and other legal requirements.
Examiners will assess plans to recommend:
- The plan proceeds to the referendum stage (i.e. it meets all the legal requirements).
- Suggest that modifications are needed to the plan before it can proceed to the referendum.
- That it does not proceed to the referendum.
How do I join the panel?
Anyone wishing to apply to the panel is required to meet the minimum criteria, followed by a training assessment programme and formal interview, lasting approximately 45 - 60 minutes.
The initial assessment and reassessment process is primarily competency based. It requires examiners to demonstrate the skills and abilities needed to perform specific tasks or functions. The specific competencies examiners must demonstrate depend on your area of work. As an examiner you must have extensive experience and knowledge, therefore the standard of performance is assessed by reference to the abilities and qualities that would normally be expected of an examiner on the panel.
Once successfully on the panel, all examiners are subject to a reassessment every three years, to maintain standards and quality. Panel members can be invited to interview outside of this time frame in relation to any of the following:
- Expiry of a three-year period since the last assessment.
- Adverse feedback.
- At recommendation of the Expert Advisory Planning Services Board (EAPS) following a complaint against the panel member.
- Failure to comply with Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
How can I apply to join the panel?
Training courses run on an ad-hoc basis, but if you would like to consider joining the panel, please register your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be notified as soon as we have details of the next training programme.
Gemma Beasley, DRS Operations Manager
t: 020 7695 1543
Mushtaq Ahmed, Deputy Appointments Service Manager
t: 024 7686 8349
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