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New Planning Court Announced to Limit Rise in Judicial Reviews

New Planning Court Announced to Limit Rise in Judicial Reviews

The Justice Minister Chris Grayling has announced that disputes over large construction projects, ranging from shopping centres to schools, will be fast-tracked through a new planning court under an initiative to limit the rise in judicial reviews, which have trebled in a decade to more than 12,000 a year currently. The proposed strict new measures would mean only individuals or groups with a financial interest in a case would be permitted to bring a challenge. The measures are part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill and the Planning Court will be established this summer. It will remain within the High Court rather than a separate Planning Chamber in the Upper Tribunal as originally proposed. The new court is expected to process 400 planning cases each year and a key reform is that anyone lodging a judicial review challenge to a scheme will have to take on ‘a fair level’ of financial risk. A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We want to make sure judicial review continues its crucial role in holding authorities and others to account, but also that it is used for the right reasons and is not abused by people to cause vexatious delays or to generate publicity for themselves at the expense of ordinary taxpayers.” Mr Grayling said that new measures to be introduced as part of the general reforms will include:

  • Limiting the use of protective cost orders to exceptional cases with a clear public interest.
  • Ensuring that details of anyone financially backing a judicial review are disclosed, even if they are not named as a party, to ensure that costs can be fairly awarded.
  • Making third parties who intervene in a judicial review case responsible for their own costs and any costs incurred by a party as a result of their intervention.
  • Speeding up appeals by making it possible for them to be considered by the supreme court, without going to the court of appeal first.
  • Stopping Judicial Reviews based on technical flaws in the original decision-making process.

However, some judges and lawyers have warned that limits on judicial reviews could lead to unlawful or poor decisions going unchecked. Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, has echoed these views over the plans. The objective of deterring weak applications was “laudable” and the desire to cut delay and expense “plainly right”, at least in principle, he commented. “However, one must be very careful about any proposals whose aim is to cut down the right to judicial review,” he said. “The courts have no more important function than that of protecting citizens from the abuses and excesses of the executive.” For further information and advice speak to a commercial property lawyer.

Homeless concern

Shelter, the charity campaigning on behalf of the homeless, also voiced concerns over the proposals. “These proposals will have a devastating impact on homeless people,” Chief Executive Campbell Robb, said. “The option to use judicial review is vital for charities like Shelter in making sure that local authorities meet their legal duty to give homeless families a place to stay for the night.” Separately, a Times reader last week reacted to the changes, saying in a letter that a great deal of Covent Garden and much of Soho would have been demolished in the 1960s and 1970s, had it not been for residents, conservation groups and the media objecting to development schemes. The argument that time was being wasted on debate, and that development should be pushed through as quickly as possible, was also put forward then,” wrote the reader. Another observer was quoted in the media saying that he was not quite sure that the problems caused by judicial review in planning justify all this activity. “It’s launching an Exocet to kill a mouse,” he said. IBB has one of the largest real estate groups in West London and the South East, with expertise in commercial real estate , residential development, real estate finance, real estate and investment management, construction and real estate dispute resolution.

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