The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has announced plans to introduce a new specialist planning court. The court, which will benefit from hearings being heard by experienced planning judges, is scheduled to hear its first cases this summer.
So why is this new planning court being introduced? The answer lies in the time taken for planning cases to be resolved; it takes an average of 370 days to resolve a case when an application goes all the way to a final hearing. Such delays are a worry for developers who have raised concerns stating that lengthy delays have forced them into financial difficulty, causing some schemes to collapse entirely.
Developers are also likely to benefit from the new limits which will be introduced, restricting those who may challenge a decision to individuals or groups with a financial interest in the case. A reduction in the number of people able to make a challenge will likely lead to fewer judicial review cases. The government is keen to reduce judicial review applications, which almost trebled in number between 2000 and 2012.
The specialist nature of the court may mean that cases which succeed in reaching a final hearing will be more robustly tested. An important amendment being introduced is the ‘likelihood of significantly different outcome’ test (including at leave stage).
There will also be additional powers in relation to the awarding of costs; groups applying for judicial review will now be required to reveal the source of any funding, enabling the court to apportion costs fairly. Also, s.288 of the 1990 Act is being amended so that High Court challenges to appeal decisions will need leave.