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.
Communities are able to produce Neighbourhood Plans for their local area, putting in place planning policies for the future development and growth of the neighbourhood. This puts communities centre-stage, encouraging collaboration on planning at the neighbourhood level.
A number of industry bodies came together to develop the Neighbourhood Planning Independent Examiner Referral Service (NPIERS) which provides access to expert, impartial examiners when needed and is designed to support communities through this process. This resource has been designed by the following organisations, with support from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG):
Communities and local authorities can make applications to NPIERS free of charge to obtain an Independent Examiner from a panel of highly competent professionals. We use professionals who are highly qualified and regulated by professional bodies.
You are able to apply for two services:
The Service, which is managed and administered by RICS provides cost-efficient, quick and easy access to impartial and highly qualified examiners on an “as needed” basis.
You are able to apply to NPIERS for a pre-submission Health Check review of the neighbourhood plan, or for the referral of Examiners who are able to undertake the examination of the neighbourhood plan.
There is a set fee for Examiners, which 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, there are no retainer or other employment costs normally incurred by employing an expert or a consultant.
RICS manages the appointment of NPIERS Examiners. The Examiners are professionals drawn from across the planning professions, and have specific skills and expertise in neighbourhood planning.
If, after an appointment is made, the Examiner is unable to undertake the task as required (for example, due to sickness), as soon as NPIERS becomes aware of the problem, it will endeavour to appoint another Examiner as quickly as possible.
Obtaining a Health Check before submitting your plan can give you valuable insights into whether your plan meets the basic conditions and whether it would be likely to proceed to the referendum stage. A lot of time and effort goes into 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. The Health Check does not involve the re-writing of the plan, but gives general advice on what changes need to be made.
NPIERS makes no charge for you to apply for an examiner. The Examiner will charge £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 from Locality. Groups facing a range of complex issues may able to apply for further support from the programme.
The Examination Service allows for access to impartial examiners as and when needed.
Once a draft neighbourhood plan or order has gone through its pre-submission consultation, you should be thinking about sourcing an Examiner. The Examiner will 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. that it meets all the legal requirements) or may suggest that modifications are needed to the plan before it can proceed to the referendum. Undertaking the pre-submission Health Check before submitting the plan for examination will give your plan the best opportunity of being approved.
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 takeapproximately 9-11 days. However Examiners may well be working on other matters so this may not be consecutive days.
NPIERS makes no charge for you to apply for an Examiner. However, the Examiner will charge £750 plus VAT per day (plus any reasonable expenses) to undertake the examination of your neighbourhood plan.
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 for a Health Check, please complete the NPIERS2 Application Form.
Once completed, submit the form to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.