Skip to main content

Purpose and vision


The Planning Inspectorate deals with planning appeals, national infrastructure planning applications, examination of local plans and other planning and specialist casework in England and Wales.

We deliver decisions, recommendations and advice to customers in an open, fair, impartial and timely manner by:

  • Supporting our customers with an efficient, effective and fair service through sound decision making and recommendations;
  • Supporting future sustainable development and infrastructure needs;
  • Helping communities shape where they live by resolving land-use disputes and providing long-term confidence for sound planning at a local and national level;
  • Acting as independent experts upholding and promoting quality in the planning system; and
  • Providing a professional and expert service to other government departments and agencies to support the delivery of their objectives.

Through our work we contribute to the creation of great places by enabling:

  • New homes and communities to be developed where people want to live and work;
  • National infrastructure to be independently considered;
  • Local plans to be put in place; and
  • The natural and historic environment to be conserved and enhanced.

Our work plays a critical part in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) achieving its objective of delivering the homes the country needs, and we have a clear alignment of our strategy to MHCLG priorities. In Wales we work towards delivering the principles of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. We are a demand-led organisation providing statutory functions, partly funded by income. 


To provide a customer-focused, professional and
innovative centre of excellence with trusted, independent planning experts, meeting the Government’s objectives at a local and national level whilst working with others to improve the planning system.

We want the Planning Inspectorate to be an exemplar public service organisation adhering to the principles of sustainable development. Our customers will be provided with an independent, timely, fair, efficient and effective service. Our advice, recommendations and decisions will be provided to a high standard and we will be trusted and respected for our quality.

As an organisation we will act responsibly and support the UK and Welsh Governments1 in their efforts to act in accordance with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) and to deliver the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. We will play our part in efforts to improve the end- to-end planning system. We are committed to making use of our professional expertise to partner and support others to improve the planning system at a local and national level. We will use this expertise to provide advice and guidance on improving development schemes to reduce the number of proposed developments resorting to appeal against refusal of planning permission. We will engage with built environment professionals to identify, share and encourage good practice.

We will develop an inclusive workforce that is representative of the customers that we serve and that is appropriately resourced, skilled, challenged and engaged. We will also aim to reduce any existing inequalities and understand our impact on communities and the environment.

We will continue to identify opportunities to shape our systems and processes to deliver improved services that meet customer and stakeholder expectations. A culture of innovation and continuous improvement will be key to our readiness for the future and improvements to the planning system for the benefit of customers and our commitment to managing public money.

Our work is underpinned by our values:

  • We are customer-focused
  • We are open
  • We are impartial
  • We are fair

Achieving the vision (1 September 2020 – 31 March 2024)

This Plan is a revision of our Strategic Plan adopted in 2019. Implementation over the 2019-20 year focused on getting ‘the basics right’ to position the organisation to be able to improve the service we deliver to customers and then to work with others to improve the experience of the planning process.

MHCLG, as sponsoring department, and the Inspectorate have significantly invested in system development and organisational re-structuring to deliver improvements (people, processes, systems and culture) that will enable us to better understand and meet customer needs, to sustainably recover casework performance and ensure we are ready for future challenges such as increasingly complex casework or legislative changes.

Our assumption is that our core business will not change significantly in the immediate future, but our methods of delivery could and should where there are opportunities for improvement. We will respond positively to policy and legislative changes following the ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper and plan positively to make sure the organisation is ready to implement the changes.

Our strategic priorities are to:

  • To be customer-focused
  • To effectively and efficiently serve people, places and the economy
  • To be an attractive and inclusive organisation; and
  • To plan for the future

Our strategy drives the development of our business and financial plans and our change portfolio.

We will align all of our underpinning strategies and plans (including annual Business Plan) to our strategic objectives, ensuring we have the right balance of investment and effort to deliver against each of them.

HM Treasury undertook a Spending Review and agreed departmental and arms-length bodies’ available resources for the 2021-22 financial year. The themes of this Spending Review are to ensure efficiency, realise digital solutions and automation. Our strategic objectives align with MHCLG priorities of Project Speed2, Design Body, Digital Build and the proposals set out in the English Government’s White Paper for planning reform: ‘Planning for the Future’. Our future direction is to remain within our current cash position and consume inflation and growth, while seeking to become more self-funding by reviewing our charging scheme and working with our sponsor department on opportunities to align these charges to our costs. In future years of the Strategic Plan, we aim to annually develop a multi-year Medium-Term Financial Plan, aligned with our strategic priorities so that our resources align and help us to achieve our desired outcomes.

1    We are currently preparing for the separation of Wales from the Planning Inspectorate which will take place during the life of this Plan. 

2    The Inspectorate has worked closely with MHCLG, DfT, HMT and Defra specialist bodies in an end-to-end review of how major infrastructure is designed, evaluated and consented - Project Speed. This has prepared us for the National Infrastructure Strategy and response to the National Infrastructure Commission in the Spending Review announcement of November 2020. We jointly identified a range of actions which will improve and accelerate the delivery of infrastructure projects through both the Planning Act 2008 and other Highways and Transport legislation. The new approach assists in moving forward on the Net Zero Carbon target and the 25 Year Environment Plan. The Inspectorate has already commenced work with enhanced pre-application support to exemplar projects, evaluating digital examining and environmental assessment approaches as part of ‘Faster, fairer, greener’.

Strategic Delivery

To be customer-focused

We recognise the importance of building a comprehensive understanding of the needs of our customers, acknowledging that we have different customers who have different needs at different times.

We know that customers would like us to improve the speed at which we operate, and give them information that is clear, reliable and easy to understand. We also want to say more about what we do and why so we can engage better with those who use our services.

Our objectives:

  • We will continually improve the way we engage with our customers and their understanding of our role in the planning system to meet their varying needs and expectations;
  • We will provide clear, accurate, easily accessible, transparent and robust information, to enable a modern, efficient and continuously improving planning process; and
  • We will continue to strongly uphold our reputation for values of fairness, openness and impartiality and the quality of our decision making.

To effectively and efficiently serve people, places and the economy

We recognise our work needs to result in well-informed decisions, reports and recommendations that serve people, places and the economy.

We need to respond to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in ways that not only enable us to continue to recover our performance but that assists wider recovery in line with government priorities.

Our objectives:

  • We will improve our casework performance and meet the changing demands of the planning system;
  • We will deliver improved assurance on the efficiency, quality, fairness, openness and impartiality of our decisions;
  • We will work alongside MHCLG to deliver legislative change to provide a better planning system that improves the end-to-end experience for customers; and
  • We will analyse and share best practice with Local Planning Authorities, aiming to improve the customer experience of the overall planning system. 

To be an attractive and inclusive organisation

We recognise the need for the Inspectorate to be a safe and attractive place to work, to increase our diversity, our inclusivity and develop our organisational capabilities. We will maintain our existing strengths as trusted experts with high levels of staff engagement and behaviours that align to our values (fair, open, impartial, customer-focused).

Our objectives:

  • We will develop our culture of inclusivity to attract, engage and retain a diverse workforce that increasingly represents the communities we serve and ensures we have the skills for the future;
  • We will undertake work to identify our community and environmental impact and the impact of COVID-19 to understand and adjust our working practices, contributing to the achievement of sustainable development goals (UN).
  • We will effectively manage performance and talent to continuously develop our organisational capabilities, ensuring flexible and customer-focused delivery of service and readiness for the future; and
  • We will empower our people to raise issues and consider risks.

To plan for the future

We recognise the need to become a more sustainable, agile, flexible organisation that is able to respond positively to and anticipate change. This will ensure we are able to sustainably deliver an effective and efficient service across all areas of our work.

Our objectives:

  • We will develop and implement a digital strategy that will maximise the benefits of digital technology to meet evolving customer expectations and to provide greater value to the taxpayer;
  • We will encourage and value creativity, new ideas and acceptable risk-taking in the development of new and improvement of current services;
  • We will use our data to shape the planning sector to operate more efficiently; and
  • We will increase our ability to see what is coming so we can prepare for changes.

How will we know if we’re successful?

In parallel to the development of this Strategic Plan, we are bringing forward a performance framework to underpin it. This incorporates public targets, agreed with MHCLG, for our casework.

Performance against our Plan will be overseen by the Executive Team and the Board. We will continue to publish statistics related to casework performance regularly on our website and report more fully against the plan in our annual report and accounts. We are aiming to see trends of improvement as opposed to setting fixed targets, though some targets may be applied against our casework.

We will continue to be open and transparent about the performance of our organisation both in terms of our core frontline activities, covering speed and quality, but also in terms of our ambitions to transform, measured by the savings achieved through our return on investment.

Strategic Priority Measure

To be customer focused

  • Customer effort score
  • Customer satisfaction on timeliness
  • Customer satisfaction on fairness/upholding values
  • Customer satisfaction on how well kept informed
  • Whether customers feel we have achieved what matters to them in their dealings with us
  • Institute of customer services benchmark score
  • Reduction of % of casework received as invalid on first receipt (categorised to enable analysis)
  • Timeliness of answering complaints
  • Timeliness of answering queries
  • Reducing general queries over time
  • Proportion of adverse rulings by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

To effectively and efficiently serve people, places and the economy

  • End-to-end median time for:
    • Appeals service (appeals, common land, rights of way etc); And within that:
      • A case considered entirely through written evidence;
      • A case considered with at least some evidence heard at a hearing (virtual or physical);
      • A case considered with at least some evidence heard at a public inquiry (virtual or physical).
    • Applications service (mainly national infrastructure);
    • Examinations service (local plans and related).
  • Increase in predictability of casework duration
  • Increase in consistency of casework timeliness (reduction of spread of the population of case duration)
  • Reduction in current number of appeals in process (increased output/productivity)
  • Quarterly sample of quality - % of cases meeting quality standard
  • % of cases subjected to internal assurance that met the required standard of quality
  • % of National Significant Infrastructure Projects examined and reported within the statutory timescale.

Strategic Priority Measure

To be an attractive and inclusive organisation

  • Representation of communities served– whole organisation, senior grades (G7+) and geographical split for Bristol-based roles:
    • Gender
    • Ethnicity
    • Disability
    • Sexual orientation
    • Age
    • Religion/belief
  • Sustained high Engagement score and ‘my manager’ scores – overall mark and relative position in Civil Service
  • Improving staff survey scores on perception of:
    • being valued
    • having leaders who role model values
    • working together to find ways to improve service provided
    • having opportunities to professionally develop (‘there are opportunities for me to develop my career’)
    • Bullying and Harassment/Discrimination
  • PINS to become a Civil Service High Performer for Inclusion and Fair Treatment.
  • Reduction of gender pay gap
  • Fair pay (equal pay for equal value) achieved
  • Contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). There is an opportunity in the future to more directly align our measures and how we make a contribution to these goals which will be incorporated in the next review of the Plan.

To plan for the future

  • Unit cost of delivery – operational costs
  • Reduction of % of costs attributed to waste (as opposed to ‘value’)
  • % of benefit realisation targets met
  • Cost savings delivered
  • Number of ideas submitted
  • Number of competitions for Innovation held
  • Number of Innovation projects in the Change Portfolio
  • % of projects per Innovation Horizon

Not all of our performance against our strategic objectives can be measured quantitatively and some will require qualitative analysis for assurance purposes. This would include:

Delivery of legislative changes: when a new change take place, we will need to evaluate our readiness and the effectiveness of the implementation - undertaking regular reviews and a post- implementation review (reporting to the Executive Team and Board).

Stakeholder evaluation: we will need to seek regular feedback from stakeholders and evaluate how well we are meeting their expectations of our stakeholders. This might take the form of formal interviews to complement a structured quantitative survey; or informal conversations subsequently discussed at Executive Team meetings as part of risk analysis.

Agility of the Inspectorate to successfully take on and absorb work within the planned environment, and ability to flex resources accordingly: this would require a deep-dive review that would make a qualitative assessment, taking into account data such as vacancy levels, movements within organisation as response to need, requirements in-year for external resources and un-planned expenditure.

Where we are, and where we need to be

To be customer-focused

Where we are (baseline)

  • We have undertaken research and developed our understanding of what matters most to our customers based around types of casework.
  • We are working with the Institute of Customer Services to establish baseline measures of customer satisfaction.
  • In the 2019-20 financial year, 21 weeks was the median for appeals and specialist casework (duration from valid to decision).
  • Customers track progress of appeals by phoning customer services team.
  • Over 80% of our customers told us in our latest reputation survey (c300 responses) that we uphold our values of being impartial, fair and open

Where do we need to be (description of success)

  • Customers’ satisfaction and understanding of our role in the planning system is high.
  • We have improved our speed of service and made the service provided more consistent re timeliness.
  • Customers are able to track the progress of appeals online.
  • Systems and information are tailored around different work types to enable our services (and supporting processes) to better-meet customer needs while ensuring that we maintain fairness and quality for all.
  • We have developed systematic ways to engage with our customers across all our casework areas to find out in what ways they consider our services could be improved.

To effectively and efficiently serve people, places and the economy

Where we are (baseline)3

  • Our casework performance baseline (performance over the course of 2019/20)
  • We met 100% of statutory national infrastructure targets
  • 100% of Local Plan reports were delivered within the agreed timescale
  • 99% of Inspector decisions were free from an upheld complaint or successful legal challenge
  • Decision speeds:
  • Householder appeals - Median 16 weeks
  • Planning written reps appeals - Median 19 weeks
  • Planning hearing appeals - Median 31 weeks
  • Planning inquiry appeal decisions under Rosewell approach - 99% within 26 weeks
  • Enforcement written reps appeals - Median 38 weeks
  • Enforcement hearing appeals - Median 62 weeks
  • Enforcement inquiry - Median 76 weeks
  • We operate in an increasingly complex planning environment and are dependent upon sought- after, but increasingly scarce, skills in the built environment sector to carry out our work. Demand for our services has risen over the last ten years. It is currently level and set against a backdrop of a reduction in public funding, an uncertain income stream and a shortage of professional planners in the labour market.
  • A new organisational structure, in place from 1 April 2020, is embedding.

Where do we need to be (description of success)

  • Organisational restructure is embedded and delivering the benefits as designed.
  • Casework performance is sustainably improving and meeting goals (to be set in autumn 2020) by 2024.
  • Accurate forecast of demand and risks to performance mitigated.
  • Robust management information systems in place that evaluate both the timeliness and quality of our work.
  • Working collaboratively with all stakeholders and engaging early with appellants, applicants and their representatives to ensure that appeals, applications or plans are submitted correctly first time round with sufficient information for us to deal with them in a timely manner.
  • We have learned from our experience of COVID-19 to reflect how we can best serve and interact with our customers and stakeholders in a timely and effective way.

To be an attractive and inclusive organisation

Where we are (baseline)

  • Our workforce are committed to their work and skills in delivering it.
  • Our latest position on the Civil Service staff engagement survey showed an engagement score of 63% (2019 results). This was a positive increase of 2 percentage points from the previous year.
  • We are encouraging our people to disclose personal data related to diversity so we fully understand where we may have under-representation of the communities we serve.
  • We are developing our organisational approach on equality, diversity and inclusion as well as development plans for our identified professions.
  • Our organisation offers each employee up to 6 days a year to carry out voluntary activities that support their community; we provide recycling facilities
  • in our office base and all paper used is 100% recycled

Where do we need to be (description of success)

  • Year-on-year, our workforce is becoming more representative of the communities we serve at all levels
  • The organisation has an embedded inclusive culture.
  • Year-on-year increased take up of volunteering days.
  • Year-on-year improvement to our environmental performance.
  • Staff feel enthusiastic about their work, valued and positive about the future of the organisation.
  • We have capable, inclusive leaders.
  • Our staff are professionally developing and our organisation has the right people in the right places to sustain and improve our performance.
  • Our experience of COVID-19 has informed our future work force strategies and how we can further improve our approach to wellbeing and engagement.

In 2019-2020:

Data from 2019-20 financial year:

  • 62 people volunteered in the 2019-20 financial year with a total of 118 days spent in support of this type of activity.
  • Circa (c) £14,000 was raised for charity
  • 694 boxes of paper used
  • 83.53 (tCO2e) gross greenhouse gas emissions;
  • c£77k expenditure on energy
  • c217,000 KWh electricity used
  • c117,000 KWh gas used
  • c911 m3 water used
  • c49 (t) waste produced

To plan for the future

Where we are (baseline)

  • We have grown our digital capability through the organisational redesign and developed a cross- cutting digital strategy which will support the delivery of our strategic priorities and day-to-day running of the organisation.
  • We have grown our capability to innovate and improve through the organisational redesign and are developing an innovation strategy to underpin this priority.
  • We have grown our capability to manage and analyse our information and are developing a cross- cutting data strategy which will support the delivery of our strategic priorities and day-to-day running of the organisation.
  • We have identified the failure to utilise our knowledge about upcoming changes affecting the Inspectorate to proactively manage our resources as a strategic risk and invested in increasing
  • the capability and capacity of roles within the Inspectorate carrying responsibility for horizon- scanning activity.
  • We are reflecting on our experience of COVID-19.

Where do we need to be (description of success)

  • Services transformed through the use of technology have changed the way we operate improved the customer experience and delivered faster, more consistent, outcomes.
  • Our digital skills and capabilities we have invested in support further development of our services to meet evolving customer needs and expectations.
  • We engage with stakeholders and customers to identify where we can add value. We then develop and trial new approaches to meet these needs, thereby building solutions that fixes a problem/ improves a service that customers need and will use.
  • We work collaboratively with other organisations, as appropriate, to improve the planning system.
  • We proactively anticipate change and are well- prepared to respond as an agile organisation.
  • Learning from COVID-19 will inform our plans for how we operate, how we work with customers and our employment offer.


3    Performance measures provided are for decisions issued in March 2020.


In order to achieve our strategic ambitions, there are risks that need to be managed. Our strategic risks, as at December 2020, are:

Risk Title & Reference and Risk Description

S1: Capability and capacity

Cause: The failure to proactively assess our resource needs and embed flexible processes which allow us to have the right people we need, when and where we need them.

Event: Will result in the lack of critical business staff.

Consequence: We will not have the capability and/or capacity to meet the future needs of our customers and stakeholders and will continue being a reactive organisation.

S2: Horizon scanning and resource planning

Cause: If we do not effectively utilise our knowledge of changes affecting the Inspectorate that impact on resource requirements both human and system (eg Inquiries Review).

Event: Insufficient inspector resource to service casework (BAU) transformation, changes to policy, working practices and QA sufficient decisions.

Consequence: Leading to inconsistent decision making, errors and extended timescales in determining appeals – cost and reputational damage.

S3: Transformation agenda and savings

Cause: The lack of capability and/or capacity and the inability to balance BAU v change, coupled with projects that don’t deliver the expected savings and culture changes that inhibit successful delivery.

Event: Could result in the failure to successfully deliver on the transformation agenda.

Consequence: Meaning PINS fails to meet targets and required savings.

S4: Operational performance

Cause: Mismatch between demand for services, capacity and skills resulting from: reliability of forecasting; volume of comparatively new inspectors not aligning to experience and skills required by the work; effectiveness of work specialism classification, allocation and programming and its relationship with productivity; medium term resource planning.

Event: Failing to sustain the level of performance required by Ministers and customers.

Consequence: Significant effect on employee morale and the Planning Inspectorate’s reputation and credibility with Ministers and customers.

S7: Change in the organisation

Cause: A complex situation with a combination of higher than normal number of staff with long service in the organisation; a prevailing culture of cynicism of, and resistance to, change; lack of trust that managers are making good change; leaders are insufficiently equipped to lead change; parts of the organisation where limited change has taken place in the last 10 years.

Event: External events and internal strategic/business plan priorities all require a shift from the current way of doing things and a need to move resource and there is very limited flexibility from existing staff to move to new roles/do things differently.

Consequence: Change is slow to take place eg performance improvement, technological change, slow response to change in business need; frustration in senior leaders about lack of flexibility; additional unbudgeted costs from needing to use external contractors. 

S11: Data protection

Cause: The lack of an embedded and mature culture of data governance ie the understanding of policies and processes needed to ensure compliance with the GDPR are absent or immature.

Event: The inspectorate fails to comply with its regulatory obligations leading to a data breach.

Consequence: The reputation of the Inspectorate is damaged; individuals are harmed or distressed; the Inspectorate is subject to monetary sanctions from the Information Commissioners Office.

S12: ODT implementation

Cause: As a result of: i) people being unable to work with the new system or ‘adopt’ to the change (PEOPLE); or ii) new operational processes not working effectively or failing (PROCESS); or iii) defects with the PICASO or Portal system (TECHNOLOGY) the following event may occur. The parallel implementation of OD may also affect this rollout (dependency). 

Event: The operational capability and effectiveness of the Inspectorate and its reputation to deliver impartial, fair and transparent decisions could be negatively impacted.

Consequence: The impact of this may be a negative reaction by staff towards PICASO and the alternative ways of interfacing with customers (appellants, agents, LPAs etc); it may result in Inspectors taking longer to find and work through the material they require to make decisions resulting in delayed decisions; and it may require skills not resident with the Digital Services Team resulting in an inability to deliver Continuous Service Improvement (CSI).

S13: Failure to manage stakeholders

Cause: Customer and stakeholder relationships are neglected OR promises are broken OR there is a gross error/incompetence made within the organisation that is handled poorly.

Event: The Directorate fails to manage stakeholder relationships/communications.

Consequence: The organisation suffers reputational damage and customers and stakeholders lose faith in the organisation.

S14: Planning reforms

Cause: Planning reform and Project Speed make significant changes to planning legislation, policy and process handling requirements affecting what we do, the way we do it, the required skills and resources.

Event: Uncertainty over the end model, a lack of resources, capacity or skills leads to either delay or failure to implement the government planning reforms and speed of delivery of major infrastructure casework. Poorly designed interventions lead to more demands on us with less income to resource them. Delay to casework output negatively affects housing provision and the economy.

Consequence: Leads to significant reputational damage at the highest political level. Leads to overloading current processes and staff -Stress, disengagement, uncertainty for staff and customers. Leads to failures in delivering robust scoping opinions, advice, decisions, recommendation and reports.

S15: NSIP Applications

Cause: The submission of a single, large, complex, high profile and controversial NSIP application, or overlapping submissions of several smaller cases which combine to achieve a comparable organisational impact.

Event: Leads to failures in predicting resource demands – requires increased operations, specialist and Inspector demand against forecast at B2 & B3 level or drawing forward the identified demand which significantly reduced lead-in and mitigation periods. Leads to overloading current system capability or reduces the ability to implement system
improvements during the lifecycle of the project. Leads to failures in following due process designed to deliver robust examinations and recommendation reports.

Consequence: Diverts highly skilled Inspectors and specialist staff away from other casework or impacting on timeframes of allocated casework.
Results in the failure to deliver performance recovery (across other areas of casework) and customer expectations.
Systems failures or inefficiencies exposed by handling a multitude of larger schemes with the current manual processes leading to increased GDPR breaches, deterioration of service standards (eg delay in getting documents published) and impacts on moral and the Planning Inspectorate’s reputation. 

S16: Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Cause: Failure to implement the critical friend/internal audit recommendations and embed the Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing (OHSW) Approach, which focusses on:

  • Management and Leadership
  • Information and Empowerment
  • Learning & Development
  • Wellbeing

Event: Health & safety or wellbeing failing resulting in a major accident, incident or near miss, for example a road traffic accident resulting in death or a lone working incident resulting in serious personal injury.


  • Enforcement action including enforcement notices and Crown Censure
  • Civil claims and additional costs
  • Reputational damage
  • Increased accident/incident rates and ill health
  • Negative colleague wellbeing, morale and productivity
  • Leaders and line managers focus directed away from customers/core role.

More information

Structure of Strategic Plan – fit with underpinning strategies and approaches.

3 year (medium-term) Financial Plan and Strategic Workforce Plan

Annual Business Plan – objectives for one year to contribute to Strategic Plan

Cross-cutting corporate strategies: Communications; Digital, Data and Innovation

To effectively and efficiently serve people, places and the economy

Professional Leads Strategy

Commercial Strategy

Approaches :

  • Knowledge Management
To plan for the future

Continuous Improvement Strategy

Commercial Strategy

Approaches :

  • Horizon Scanning
To be customer focused

Customer Strategy

Approaches :

  • None to date
To be an attractive and inclusive organisation

People Strategy

Approaches :

  • Pay
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Outreach
  • Learning and Development
  • Talent
  • Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Date of adoption : December 2020

Start date for next review : May 2021