In April this year, the Government announced that it would be pressing ahead with its proposal to reduce the time limit for filing a claim for judicial review from three months to six weeks in planning law cases. The reform was brought into effect on 1 July by the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) Rules 2013.
The change came about despite the majority (67 per cent) of consultation responses opposing it. Most opposition came from representative bodies, members of the public and the legal profession but support was stronger from businesses and public authorities. Points made against the reduced time limit included concerns that it would mean reduced access to justice for those in disadvantaged situations or those needing time to take legal advice. However, the reform has been welcomed by the British Property Federation as a way to help speed up development, reduce risks for investors and save costs for local planning authorities.
In its response to the consultation, the Government recognised that the new time limit would not provide sufficient time to fulfil the requirements of the Pre-Action Protocol. The protocol has accordingly been revised to state that parties should still attempt to comply with the protocol but that the court will not apply the normal cost sanctions where satisfied that it has not been possible to comply because of the shorter time limits. This is a helpful revision but it is not clear exactly what parties will need to do to satisfy the court that they should not be subject to cost sanctions.