Until 6 April 2014 planning cases were dealt with in the Administrative Court. The combination of significant delays in dealing with cases and less focus on specialist judges dealing with planning cases proved very unsatisfactory. In 2013 the Planning Fast Track was introduced (along with other changes in the Administrative Court) to reduce the backlog of cases. On the back of the success of the Planning Fast Track the government opened the Planning Court (PC). It is designed to further reduce delays in challenges to major infrastructure and planning decisions by:
- Carving out of the Administrative Court burden, judicial reviews and statutory challenges relating to a wide range of planning matters
- Marrying up judges with particular planning expertise to these technical claims
- Allowing planning cases categorised as ‘significant’ to benefit from enhanced target timetables
What is the PC’s jurisdiction?
It forms part of the Queen’s Bench division of the High Court, and is therefore a specialist list. It is under the control of the Planning Liaison Judge (PLJ) - Mr Justice Lindblom has been appointed as the first PLJ.
The PC can deal with both judicial review and statutory challenges issued or transferred to the PC which involve any of the following matters:
- Planning permission, other development consents, the enforcement of planning control and the enforcement of other statutory schemes
- Compulsory purchase orders (CPOs)
- EU environmental legislation and domestic implementation of such legislation including assessments for development consents, habitats, waste and pollution control
- Village greens
- National, regional or other planning policy documents
A fuller list is specified in CPR 54.21(2)(a). The PLJ has discretion to also permit any other case to be heard in the PC.
What is the procedure?
The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) relating to judicial review (CPR 54), statutory applications (CPR 8) and statutory appeals (CPR 52) remain applicable, but the PC may develop its own distinctive set of rules and ways of dealing with matters as it beds itself in. PC claims must be issued in the Administrative Court Office, either in the Royal Courts of Justice or one of its national centres.
The rules apply from 7 April 2014 but existing cases can be transferred into the PC.
PC claims that are categorised as “significant” by the PLJ will be expedited. Under PD54E, para 3.2 cases are “significant” if they:
- Generate significant public interest
- Require judges with significant experience of handling either volume claims or technical matters
- Raise important points of law
- Relate to commercial, residential, or other developments which have significant economic impact either at a local level or beyond their immediate locality
The target timescales for the hearing of “significant” PC claims are noted in the table below. The PLJ may also direct the expedition of any PC claim if he considers it necessary to deal with the case justly.
Click here to view the table.