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Government plans to overhaul legal objections for planning applications

By Gurjit Degun , 20-Nov-2012
Last updated on 20-Nov-2012 at 17:11 GMT2012-11-20T17:11:06Z

Refurbishments: the Goverment is looking to overhaul the judicial reviews process

Refurbishments: the Goverment is looking to overhaul the judicial reviews process

The Government is looking to cut down on legal objections to the way planning applications are handled, as the Prime Minister announced his intention to “get a grip” of the judicial review process.

A judicial review looks at whether a decision or action made by a public body was made legally by following the correct procedures. This does not take into account whether or not licensees think a decision is correct.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, an independent employers’ organisation, David Cameron said that the Government is looking to:

- Reduce the time limit when people can bring cases

- Charge more for reviews to discourage people from time wasting

- Half the number of opportunities to challenge the refusal of permission for a judicial review, from four to two

Cameron said: “This is a massive growth industry in Britain today. Back in 1998 there were 4,500 applications for review and that number almost tripled in a decade.

“Of course some are well-founded ... But let’s face it: so many are completely pointless.

“Last year, an application was around five times more likely to be refused than granted. We urgently needed to get a grip on this.”

The move has been well-received by the property industry. The British Property Federation (BPF) has campaigned for a reform, believing it leads to delays in commencing development until the claim is heard.

BPF chief executive Liz Peace said: “Access to justice is a vital ingredient of the rule of law in this country, but if the process can be sensibly expedited, this should be welcomed.

“Planning cases make up a very small number of the total judicial review cases, but by speeding up the process it would deliver significant benefits in terms of enabling economic activity to take place more quickly, by reducing investors’ costs and the risks that discourage investment.

“A less talked about, but equally important impact, is the cost to local planning authorities and hence the tax payer. They have to spend significant resources in defending each claim, resources which it is increasingly unable to recover, even where the claim fails.

“Another consideration for the Government is the insufficient number of judges with planning knowledge or experience. Even a few dedicated planning judges would go a long way to speeding up the process for planning cases.”

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