Government consults on specialist planning court

The Government has revealed plans to introduce a specialist planning court to prevent development schemes getting bogged down in unnecessary legal wrangling’s, says commercial property agent Prop-Search. The proposed ‘planning chamber’ would ensure that judicial reviews are conducted by expert judges and are able to deliver rapid decisions.

The planning chamber is one of a package of proposals designed to speed up the judicial review process and drive out meritless cases which clog up courts and slow the progress of legitimate applications. The consultation also includes proposals to limit who is able to apply for a judicial review to those with a direct interest, and changing the rules regarding who will face the legal bills for cases.

Simon Toseland, a Director at Prop-Search, says: “The planning chamber would ensure that judicial reviews are conducted by expert judges, able to deliver rapid decisions. It is hoped the measures will lead to a streamlining of the process so that development projects do not fall by the wayside due to long delays.”

Announcing the proposals, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling 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 to cause vexatious delays or to generate publicity for themselves at the expense of ordinary tax payers.”

Government figures reveal that there has been a huge growth in the number of applications for judicial reviews over the past fifteen years. Applications more than doubled from 4,500 in 1998 to 12,400 in 2012, but in 2012 just one in six were granted permission to proceed beyond the first consideration of the application. Of the 422 which went on to a final hearing without being withdrawn or settled in 2011, just 163 went in favour of the applicant.

Simon Toseland, add: “Judicial review applications frequently take over a year to resolve. The average delay, in cases going to a final hearing is 370 days according to the latest available figures. This causes financial difficulties for developers and can lead to some schemes collapsing completely.”