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Important changes to judicial review in planning

Mon 01 Jul 2013

Changes to the Civil Procedure Rules came into effect today (1 July 2013). The key points in relation to planning are as follows:

Time period to lodge JR claims

  • The time period for submitting JR claims to challenge certain planning decisions has been reduced from 3 months to 6 weeks from the date of the decision.
  • The new 6 week time limit applies to local authority planning decisions including the grant of planning permission and listed building consent.  The new time period aligns with the existing 6 week statutory challenge period for Secretary of State decisions on appeal.
  • Transitional provisions mean the 6 week time limit does not apply to decisions made prior to 1 July 2013. These decisions remain subject to the 3 month time limit.  Planning decisions made on or after 1 July 2013 will be subject to the new 6 week period.
  • However, the 6 week time limit does not apply to planning policy decisions such as challenges to the development of national or local policy, including development plans. These decisions will remain subject to the 3 month time limit.
  • It is expected that Pre-Action Protocol requirements will be revised so that (while parties are encouraged to comply with it) there are no adverse consequences if parties are unable to comply due to the shortened time period.
  • The reduced time period means that land contracts conditional on challenge-free planning permissions will become unconditional much earlier. Contracts currently under negotiation should be amended to reflect the new time period as appropriate.

 Restrictions on applying for oral hearings

  • Applicants will now be prevented from seeking an oral hearing in person if their initial written application has been ruled by a judge as “totally without merit” on the papers.
  • It remains to be seen the extent to which the Court will rule that a claim is “totally without merit” but it is widely used to strike out appeals in other judicial contexts. Used properly it should eliminate weak, frivolous and unmeritorious cases, which so often cause unnecessary delay, expense and uncertainty to development projects.
  • Transitional provisions mean that this rule does not apply to JR claims filed before 1 July 2013.

The Government also intends to bring forward secondary legislation to introduce a £215 fee (up from £60) for anyone seeking an oral hearing after the initial written JR application has been turned down where the case has not been ruled as being “totally without merit”. It is also consulting on raising fees generally in JR cases.

For further details or of you have any questions please contact Colette McCormack in Winckworth Sherwood's Planning team.

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