Specialist Planning Court Proposal ‘May Not Have Major Impact’

Legal Expert Comments On New Plans In MOJ Consultation


By Rob Dixon

The introduction of a specialist court to deal with planning issues may seem a good idea in principle, but the concept may not prove particularly effective in practice, a planning specialist at Irwin Mitchell has warned.

In a revised consultation on judicial review reform, the Ministry of Justice has proposed the creation of a specialist court which will focus solely on planning issues, in an effort to speed up new development and also tackle issues regarding objections to such projects.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said the proposals were designed to ensure that building work is not sidetracked as a result of ‘needless delays’, as well as to guarantee that the judicial review system is being used “for the right reasons”.

The proposals also include calls for the introduction of restrictions on third party groups such as charities or campaigners who may look to intervene in a case despite not being directly involved.

Commenting on the plans, Emily Williams, a legal expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office who specialises in advising on planning issues, said: “A special planning court might be beneficial as a concept, as it would enable planning cases to be dealt with by members of the judiciary with relevant expertise.

“This in turn may avoid some of the delays often associated with the Administrative Court, particularly in London which has seen a backlog of immigration and other cases slowing down the system.

“However, the Admin Court function is already essentially a specialist Court function and has mechanisms in place for dealing with planning cases in general. In addition, a new directive means they should be subject to more judicial oversight and regional courts should be able to deal with judicial and statutory review cases.

“To limit a specialist planning court to major projects only would probably do little to assist.”

Emily added: “In terms of restricting challenges by third parties, such a move would clearly be advantageous to those promoting development and would prove to be a good measure to restrict any spurious challenges seeking to frustrate development.

“The judicial review process is a vital one to ensuring that decisions are taken in the best interests of all parties involved, so it is vital that the system operates in a manner which allows all relevant parties to have their voices heard but also means that viable projects are not delayed as a result of unnecessary conjecture.”

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