Judicial review may not seem the most pressing of topics but, as outlined in the earlier blog post Planning a Planning Judicial Review? Better Get Your Skates On, the government is committed to substantial reform to the judicial review system. Judicial review is a two stage process with an initial permission stage (which, if refused on the papers, can be re-considered at an oral hearing) and, if permission is granted, a further stage where the substantive arguments are considered. The system is particularly important for developers and the public as a means of challenging a local planning authority’s decision to grant or refuse planning permission. As of this week, the following changes have come into force:
- The time limit for issuing proceedings for judicial review is reduced from three months to six weeks in cases relating to the grant or refusal of planning permission;
- To accommodate the shorter time periods, the requirement to comply with the Judicial Review Pre-Action Protocol is relaxed. This will be disappointing for those who consider the Protocol to be a useful test of whether the application has any merit. Parties must still attempt to comply, but there will be fewer costs sanctions where failure to comply is because of the shorter time-limits; and
- In cases where, on the papers, the Judge concludes that the claim is “totally without merit” there will no longer be any right to a re-consideration of the claim at an oral hearing.
Having also promised to introduce a fee of £215 for oral renewal of applications, the government is yet to introduce the secondary legislation required to make this happen, with the Ministry of Justice recently confirming that this is unlikely to happen before October.
We will wait to see whether these changes make the difference the government hopes to achieve in reducing delay and spurious applications.