Planning Court opened for business today: significant cases will be “fast-tracked”

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Summary: Developers and local authorities concerned about delays to the planning process, through judicial review challenges to planning permissions, will be delighted that the new fast-track "Planning Court" opened its doors for business today.

The new Planning Court, designed to fast-track significant planning cases and reduce unnecessary and costly legal delays to UK construction projects, opens its doors for business today. The specialist court will be part of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court and will be under the control of Mr Justice Lindblom (the Planning Liaison Judge).

In February, the Ministry of Justice said in their press-release that:

“The move will see an estimated 400 planning cases a year resolved more quickly by being fast-tracked for hearings with specialist judges…It will support the growing economy by reducing unnecessary and costly legal delays which developers have previously blamed for the collapse of potential major building schemes.”

Significant planning cases will be fast-tracked

Planning Court claims categorised as “significant” are subject to a swift determination timetable. Statutory challenges should be heard within 6 months of issue, and Judicial Reviews (JRs) within 10 weeks of expiry of the date for the submission of detailed grounds of resistance.

The rules apply from 7th April but existing cases can be transferred into the Planning Court.

“Significant” claims include those which:

  1. relate to commercial, residential, or other developments which have significant economic impact either at a local level or beyond their immediate locality;
  2. raise important points of law;
  3. generate significant public interest; or
  4. by virtue of the volume or nature of technical material, are best dealt with by judges with significant experience of handling such matters.

Cases which are considered “significant” will come before a specialist judge with wide case management powers. The parties can identify cases as significant when launching a claim.

The remit of the Planning Court incorporates all decisions relating to planning and environmental matters

In effect all decisions relating to planning and environmental matters will be heard by the Planning Court. Its remit includes cases issued or transferred to the Planning Court and judicial review or statutory challenge which involve:

  • planning permission, other development consents, the enforcement of planning control and the enforcement of other statutory schemes;
  • applications under the Transport and Works Act 1992;
  • wayleaves;
  • highways and other rights of way;
  • compulsory purchase orders;
  • village greens;
  • European and domestic environmental legislation, including assessments for development consents, habitats, waste and pollution control;
  • national, regional or other planning policy documents, statutory or otherwise; or
  • any other matter the Planning Liaison Judge considers appropriate.

The court will be referred to as the “Planning Court” and claims will be referred to as “Planning Court Claims”. Changes have been made to the CPR54.21 and PD54E to bring the Planning Court about.

 

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