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The government has already introduced a number of changes to speed up challenges to planning permissions and other decisions. As part of those changes, the new Planning Court opened for business on 7 April 2014 - new target timetables for significant judicial review and statutory challenges will be of interest to developers and landowners. Further reforms are under review.
The time limit for applications for permission to seek judicial review of planning decisions has already been reduced from 3 months to 6 weeks, to be aligned with s288 statutory challenges to appeal decisions.
Where permission is refused on the papers, the right to apply for a reconsideration of the application at a hearing (known as "oral renewal") can be refused if the case is considered to be totally without merit. A new fee for oral renewal hearings has been introduced.
The new Planning Court is able to consider challenges to planning permissions, including judicial reviews and s288 statutory challenges. It may also deal with cases relating to development consents, planning enforcement, highways, town or village greens, compulsory purchase, national, regional or other planning documents and any other matter the judge considers appropriate.
Claims will form a specialist list under the control of the Planning Liaison Judge. It was recently announced that Mr Justice Lindblom, currently President of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) will be the first Planning Liaison Judge
The main change is that, where claims are classed as "significant", target timescales apply. Claims which are not "significant" will be dealt with in the usual way.
Planning claims are "significant" if they:
For "significant" claims, target timescales apply as follows (subject to the interests of justice):
Any planning challenge can be expedited if the judge considers it necessary to deal with the case justly.
Developers whose permissions are subject to challenge will usually want the challenge to be designated as significant so that the shorter target timescales apply.
The new target timetables should result in greater certainty for developers seeking speedy disposal of claims classed as significant. However, it remains to be seen whether the court will have sufficient resources to meet the target timescales in all cases, and whether claims that aren't classed as significant take even longer to reach final determination as a result.
Further amendments are contained in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, currently making its way through Parliament. The Bill contains the following proposals to reform judicial review further:
These provisions will be subject to further debate and potential change before the Bill becomes law. Whilst the introduction of the "permission" stage in statutory challenges will be welcomed by some, there is scope for the permission stage on all challenges to become more drawn out, as the parties argue over what difference the conduct in question would have made to the applicant.
This article was written by James Souter.
For more information please contact James on +44 (0)20 7427 6716 or email@example.com.