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planning courts

Over recent years, the development industry has witnessed a significant increase in the number of challenges to planning permissions granted by a local planning authority or by the Secretary of State on appeal.

Even when unsuccessful, such challenges have caused significant delays, due to the time taken for the courts to deal with them. Development is delayed for, at best, many months and at worst several years.

The industry should therefore welcome the opening of a specialist Planning Court

The new court should ensure that cases are dealt with more quickly. Another advantage is that its judges will be planning law specialists, which should also lead to better and more consistent decisions.  It is also hoped that more specialist judges will be more inclined to refuse permission for weak challenges to proceed to a full hearing.

Cases will not automatically be heard by the Planning Court however, which will only hear cases that concern planning and environmental issues if they are significant.

The Court rules define significant cases as those that:

  • relate to developments that have a significant economic impact at local level or beyond
  • raise important points of law
  • are of significant public interest
  • are best dealt with judges with the experience to hear the case

This is a wide definition that should catch almost all planning-related challenges, although it will be interesting to see how the new court applies this test in practice.

At present, our experience is that cases are taking up to two years to be dealt with by the Administrative Court. The Planning Court aims to determine these claims within approximately 6 months. 

With the promise of better quality and more consistent decisions in a much quicker time period, the Planning Court should be welcomed by the industry and those facing a challenge should be looking to make very clear submissions as to why the case should be handled by the Planning Court.

For speicalist legal advice on all aspects of commercial property, contact Howells today - email or enquire online.

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