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PINS announced earlier today (28 May 2020) their intention to now schedule all events virtually in the first instance whilst social distancing measures remain in place

It has published revised guidance for appeals during the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. This approach will apply to all hearings and inquiries for planning appeals as well as examinations of national infrastructure projects and local plans.

Indeed, today's announcement also appears to suggest that virtual hearings may be here to stay, even when it is safe to conduct events in person, as PINS aim to make "virtual events our standard option for the majority of events in future".

PINS had previously suspended all site visits, inquiries and hearings in response to the pandemic. PINS however, held its first virtual hearing on 11 May 2020 and since 13 May 2020 inspectors have been permitted to conduct site visits in person where such visits are necessary and can be conducted safely.

The announcement explains that PINS is looking to hold at least 20 hearings and inquiries in June along with an additional 15 hearings for national infrastructure projects. It does warn however, that it will still take time for their service to return to normal and that parties are still likely to experience a slower service.

Nonetheless, the announcement that PINS will look to schedule events virtually in the short to potentially longer term will at the very least provide those developers whose appeals have been hold since March with some comfort and certainty.

PINS' announcement can be read here in full.