4 Dealing with Representations
4.1 Before it is published, individuals, Community Councils and other community bodies have an opportunity to make a case (make representations) for property to be included in or excluded from the register. The draft guidance, as set out in the consultation document, states “Local authorities should aim to investigate and respond to representations within eight weeks.” Question 5 of the consultation asked for views on this timescale.
Question 5: What are your views on the timescale of eight weeks to investigate representations in respect of the register?
4.2 Seventeen responded that eight weeks was about right and 23 that it should be longer. One respondent felt they did not know, and the required timescale is likely to be dependent on what the local assets are and the level of dispute attached to each, such that timescales perhaps should be considered case by case.
4.3 Those that felt it should be longer were primarily concerned about allowing enough time to take account of potential volume of representations, including conflicting comments; potential complexity of some cases; time to formulate an agreed Council opinion; access to records and the availability of resources to handle the potential workload.
4.4 More than one local authority described how, although the aim to produce a list of Common Good was a reasonable aim, in practice this could be very costly and time consuming requiring a considerable amount of legal and other resources to review facts and circumstance and investigate records etc. As such, there should be no fixed timescale with progress subject to available resources. Any timescale should be a target or guide but not mandatory.
4.5 A common recommendation was to extend the time to three months, although this should not stop local authorities from aiming to investigate within eight weeks where this proves adequate. Also, an interim response could be made informing where extensions are required and the rationale with a new estimated timeframe for a final response. This flexibility was also mentioned by several of the respondents who thought the eight week timeframe was about right.
4.6 For those others that thought the length of time was about right, the rationales offered were:
- The current wording already allows for flexibility “Local authorities should aim to investigate and respond to representations within eight weeks”. In such cases, those who make representations would be notified about the delay.
- Local authorities should already have most of the information to hand.