Last edited 30 Jun 2014

Planning court

In February 2014, following a consultation in 2012, and as confirmed in the National Infrastructure Plan and Autumn Statement in 2013, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that the government would create a new Planning Court as part of the wider strategy for long-term economic recovery (ref New planning court gets go ahead to support UK growth 5 February 2014).

The Planning Court had been expected to open in summer 2014, but in fact opened ahead of schedule on 7 April 2014. It is intended to fast track legal disputes about major developments.

The Planning Court has been established in the High Court, with a separate list under the supervision of a specialist judge. It will work to fixed time limits and it is estimated that 400 cases a year will benefit from the system, reducing unnecessary delays and costs which can derail developments.

The reform is part of a wider package intended to speed up the Judicial Review (JR) process and to discourage meritless cases. It follows changes implemented in 2013, which amongst other things, halved the time limit for applying for Judicial Review of a planning decision from three months to six weeks.

Some of these changes are included in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, whilst others, such as the introduction of the Planning Court have been made through secondary legislation and amendments to court rules.

Applications for Judicial Review increased from 4,300 in 2000 to 12,600 in 2012, but only 440 reached a final hearing. Cases can take more than a year to resolve, with planning cases taking an average of 370 days to reach a completed final hearing in 2011.

Chief Executive of The British Property Federation (BPF), Liz Peace said, “The introduction of a specialist court like this is likely to have a significant impact on delivery as it relieves the pressure on developers and planning authorities and will expedite the whole planning process.”

The first case heard by the court was a challenge to a decision by English Heritage not to register a site as the location of the 1066 Battle of Fulford.

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