Readers will be aware that the time limit for challenging the grant of planning permission by judicial review has been reduced from three months to six weeks. This came into force on 1 July 2013 via the Civil Procedure (Amendment No.4) Rules 2013.
Those changes also brought forward a fast track process for planning cases designed to ensure they are referred to expert judges.
However, the Government is currently consulting on further reforms to judicial review to further address how judicial review can be used to delay infrastructure projects, to frustrate development and to hinder legitimate action of government.
The Government is now proposing the creation of a Specialist Planning Chamber with specialist judges in the Upper Tribunal to deal with judicial review challenges; the introduction of a screening system to weed out claims without merit; and a review of who can make a judicial review challenge. There are also proposals to amend the award of costs in such cases as a further disincentive to those trying to frustrate legitimate planning applications.
The consultation closed on 1 November 2013 and it will be interesting to see how far the Government pushes the changes. There has already been some criticism that the ability to challenge Government decisions is being eroded too far and that the distinction between the judiciary and the Government would not be clear enough.
However, as the planning system has often been blamed for the poor rate of house building, it is likely the Government will do what it can to minimise any perceived obstacles.