The new streamlined Planning Court and associated reforms

Civil Procedure Rules introduced the Planning Court in the High Court with effect from 6 April 2014 and apply to the entire judicial review process with the aim of speeding up the court process and reducing delays to hundreds of infrastructure projects.
It will be supervised by a specialist Planning Liaison Judge nominated by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court.

The Court is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London but will be able to sit at other regional venues across England and Wales when necessary.

The Planning Court builds on the Planning Fast Track (PFT), which was introduced in July 2013 to reduce delays when major infrastructure and planning decisions are challenged.

Matters to be heard by the Planning Court will include judicial review and statutory challenges where any of the vollowing are involved:

-Planning permission, other development consents, the enforcement of planning control and the enforcement of other statutory schemes;
-Applications under the Transport and Public Works Act 1992;
-Highways and other rights of way;
-Compulsory purchase orders;
-Village Greens;
-European Union environmental legislation and domestic -transpositions, including assessments for development consents, habitats, waste and pollution control;
-National, regional or other planning policy documents, statutory or otherwise; and
-Any other matter transferred to the Planning Court.

Target timescales for determining “significant” Planning Court claims are laid down in the new rules of court.

The reforms introduce a permission filter for section 288 challenges based, for example, on an authority exceeding or misapplying its powers

Under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, an aggrieved person or directly concerned authority will have to obtain leave of the court before a section 288 challenge can be brought.

The Government has left in place the requirement that the claimant to Judicial Review have a “sufficient interest” in the matter which the application relates to but has opted to reduce claims by the use of financial measures including:

-making it a presumption that applicants in a judicial review will have to pay their own costs and any costs that they have caused to either party because of their action;

– by requiring applicants to show up front how the litigation is to be funded; and

– by making costs at oral permission hearings routinely recoverable and making it a possibility that the Court could order an unsuccessful claimant to pay the respondent’s proper costs.

– in relation to challenges over procedural defects the threshold will be brought down to “highly unlikely” so that a court may refuse a remedy or permission to appeal where it considers that the conduct covered by the application is “highly unlikely” to have caused a substantially different outcome for the applicant. Hitherto the Court could only substantiate such refusal if it was “inevitable” that the complained of failure would not have made a difference to the original outcome.

– Cases being appealed may be “leapfrogged” directly from the court of first instance to the Supreme Court in more instances.

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not remove the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.