How Mediation Works
It is always best to nip problems in the bud. So early mediation works best – for example, during the preparation of a development plan, or as soon as discussions are opened about a possible planning application. But it is unwise to rule out the possibility of mediation at any stage.
Before mediation gets under way, the parties agree how to share costs. There is no need to stick to “equal shares”, but it shows good faith if all parties contribute something.Ground rules are agreed, usually about the sharing of information, confidentiality and conduct at meetings. The mediator then arranges a series of one-to-one or round-table mediation sessions.
It's best if people can take decisions on the spot. But this may not be possible if committee or board approval is needed. Any possible difficulties should be made clear before mediation starts.
Professional advisors are not usually necessary. The mediator will quickly spot when someone needs special help or advice. This might happen, for example, in complex cases.
A successful mediation simplifies and speeds up the planning process by reducing areas of dispute. It may sometimes be possible to entirely avoid costly appeal or Public Local Inquiry proceedings.
The cost of mediation depends on how complex the issues are, how many parties are involved and whether premises need to be hired. A case disposed of in a day or two might cost a few hundred pounds. For major issues, the costs, and the possible savings, can be much greater.
So if mediation avoids the need for an appeal, or reduces the length of a Public Local Inquiry, it will pay its way many times over. Most important of all, it might lead to a decision with which all parties can live.