Changes to Judicial Review in Planning Cases

    Changes to judicial review in planning cases confirmed

    One of the Government’s planning reforms to assist growth and development, was the commitment that planning judicial reviews must be commenced within six weeks rather than three months.

    The Civil Procedure Rules were consequently amended, from 1 July 2013.

    To summarise, the changes to planning cases are:

    • A reduction in the time limits for filing a claim form - from three months to six weeks, from the date on which the grounds arose i.e. the grant of planning permission;
    • There is an additional court fee of £215 for seeking an oral hearing after the initial JR application has been turned down (previously the fee was £60);
    • If the Court decides that any claim is “totally without merit”, the right to request an oral hearing is removed; and
    • The requirement to act promptly no longer applies.

    The amendments do not apply to existing JR claims or to grants of planning permission made before 1 July 2013.

    The changes bring the Judicial Review position in planning cases into line with the six week challenge period for planning decisions made by the Secretary of State.

    The changes will be welcomed by developers, as the date by which a planning permission is deemed to be free from the risk of legal challenge will be regarded as six weeks rather than three months after the grant of planning permission. Therefore it will now be possible for contracts conditional on planning to progress much earlier.

    Challengers to planning decisions will need to act fast and there will be less opportunity for pre-action correspondence with other parties before the proceedings have to be issued.  This may initially lead to more rather than fewer challenges.

    A recent report issued by the Planning Inspectorate notes a rise in challenges to decisions made by the Inspectorate with one in 185 decisions challenged at the High Court in 2012/13, up from one in 278 in 2010/11.  Interestingly, the success rate has also increased with 33% of decisions being  overturned in 2012/13 compared with 23% in 2010/11 (Planning, 12 July 2013).


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