The government’s new Planning Court makes its first deliberations this month
April 17th 2014
The Planning Court came into being on the 6th of April, with the responsibility for handling certain cases of judicial review. These include applications to the High Court to challenge the validity of various planning decisions, such as planning permissions and other development consents. One of its first deliberations has been the recent case of a legal challenge to the proposed Grantham relief road (see below).
The legislation that defines the scope of the new court is Statutory Instrument 2014/610. The instrument applies to England and Wales, but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. S.I. 2014/610 is an amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules which, whilst retaining the existing procedures for judicial review, sets out a much tighter timetable for handling cases. The explanatory memorandum to the legislation states: “The policy objective of creating the Planning Court is to ensure that planning cases, including those with the potential impacts on economic growth and recovery, are resolved more quickly and efficiently.”
The expedition of judicial review with regard to planning cases was initiated last summer, when a specialist Planning Liaison Judge was nominated to review such cases and to ensure “that all major infrastructure cases are heard by a specialist High Court Judge.” Following a consultation on whether to continue with a “fast track” system in the High Court or to set up a separate Planning Court, the decision was made to pursue the second option.
Many lawyers have drawn attention to the apparent haste with which the legislation was written, pointing to a sub-clause that makes neither grammatical nor legal sense. This is the final sub-clause in the list of categories which the Court will handle. It states: “any other matter the judge appointed under rule 54.22(2).”
In an article on the Local Government Lawyer website, Richard Harwood OBE QC has also pointed out the anomaly that, whilst the list of categories includes European Union environmental legislation, the Court does not automatically have jurisdiction over purely domestic environmental law. On this point, he concludes: “So a challenge to an environmental permit for a waste or Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control installation which falls in part under European law is within the remit, but a purely domestic environmental permit matter is not.”
In one of the first cases to be heard by the Planning Court, a judge has dismissed a challenge to planning consent for a relief road in Grantham. A landowner had argued that the environmental impact of the proposed road should have been assessed together with plans for an urban extension scheme comprising up to 4,000 homes. The judge refused to grant permission for a full hearing of the claim on the grounds that the two schemes were separate for environmental impact assessment purposes.
Announcing the introduction of the new court in February, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that the Planning Court will allow an estimated 400 planning cases a year to be fast-tracked for hearings, with the intention of reducing “unnecessary and costly delays.”
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announces the Planning Court: “New planning court gets go ahead to support UK growth – Press releases – GOV.UK”.
The relevant legislation is Statutory Instrument S.I. 2014/610, available as a PDF download from “The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 3) Rules 2014 – S.I. 610”.
The explanatory memorandum to the legislation is also available as a PDF download from “The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 3) Rules 2014 – S.I. 610 Explanatory Memorandum”.
For a detailed analysis of the legal aspects, see Richard Harwood’s article of the 2nd April via the Analysis tab on the Local Government Lawyer website at “Local Government Lawyer”.
For details of the Grantham relief road case, see the Planning Resource website at “Planning court dismisses legal challenge over Grantham relief road | Planning Resource”.