New Planning Court to replace Judicial Review for large-scale development disputes

Legal disputes over major developments will be fast-tracked for consideration by a new Planning Court which will be established by this summer, the Government has announced.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed that initiative as well as plans to press ahead with a number of flagship reforms to judicial review as the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill was introduced to Parliament.

A specialist Planning Court will be created within the High Court to deal with an estimated 400 planning cases including those relating to nationally significant infrastructure projects. Appeals will be able to ‘leapfrog’ directly to the Supreme Court in a wider range of circumstances by expanding the criteria for such appeals, removing the requirement for consent of both parties, and allowing more leapfrog appeals to be brought from more courts and tribunals.

The MoJ said it would also be taking forward a set of reforms to certain financial aspects of judicial review, “the aim being to deter claimants from bringing or persisting with weak cases”. Some of the changes involved, including setting up the Planning Court, costs of oral permission hearings and the availability of legal aid for judicial review, will be made later this year through secondary legislation or amendments to court rules.

Following the consultation, the Government has decided not to take forward the previously proposed reforms to rules around who is allowed to apply for a JR or altering the availability of legal aid in planning cases.

However, some critics, including environmental organisations and community groups, have criticised the move. They fear that removing the potential to apply for Judicial Review in some cases will reduce the extent to which  communities can protect their local area from what they consider to be inappropriate development.

You can read the full Ministry of Justice press release on the decision here.