David Cameron’s announcement to the CBI’s industry group (19th November 2012) that he is “determined to dismantle some of the procedures that have been slowing us down”, such as the over-use of judicial reviews to overturn decisions, including planning permissions, once again, raises the question as to how well pronouncing Ministers have been briefed. The Prime Minister’s figures confuse the overall number of Judicial Review applications (mostly immigration which do not affect business) and the much smaller number which do affect business. In fact, there appear only to be 100 or so judicial review proceedings brought against planning permissions granted by local authorities each year. In contrast, local authorities issue 350,000 permissions; so the challenge rate is less than 0.05%. But the success rate on those proceedings is quite high.

One of the features of the announcement is a stated intention to reduce the number of judicial reviews challenges by reducing “…the time limit when people can bring cases”. Leaving aside possible legal challenges to such a measure, it is likely to be counter-productive in practical terms. For whilst an abbreviated period for the bringing of judicial review would provide earlier certainty to decisions which are not subject to challenge it might carry negative consequences for those against which claims are contemplated This is because little time would remain for pre-action correspondence and therefore for the opportunity for the parties to avoid resort to the Courts. The Judicial Review Pre-Action Protocol requirement (at para. 3.1), “that litigation should be a last resort, and that claims should not be issued prematurely when a settlement is still actively being explored” can just about be managed together with the requirement at CPR54.5 that “a claim for judicial review ‘must be filed promptly and in any event not later than 3 months after the grounds to make the claim first arose’ but with shorter periods for challenge, such active exploration becomes practically less and less likely.

Will this prove to be another failed attempt at streamlining processes affecting planning (in particular) to rank alongside Eric Pickles now notoriously unsuccessful go at doing away with Regional Strategies? Lawyers are already sharpening their quills…