New procedure for challenging certain planning decisions

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Under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 ("CJCA 2015") a number of new provisions came into force at the end of October. These include section 91 and Schedule 16 which together amend various enactments including the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 ("TCPA 1990") and the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ("LBCA 1990").

The changes introduce a number of amendments to the procedure for challenging planning decisions. A permission stage has been introduced for High Court challenges brought forward under section 287 (development plans and certain schemes and orders) and section 288 (including planning appeals under section 78, and appeals regarding lawful development certificates), as well as section 63 of the LBCA 1990, (appeals for listed building consent). Previously, under these provisions any application to the High Court proceeded directly to a full hearing regardless of merit.

Now, applicants will have to obtain leave of a court to proceed, bringing the procedure in line with that for planning Judicial Review applications. Applications for permission to bring a challenge under these provisions will have to be made within the six week period beginning the day after the 'relevant date', usually being the date of the decision or order under challenge.

In addition, the amendments allow for challenges against decisions made in relation to costs awards (for challenges under section 288 TCPA 1990 and section 63 of the LBCA 1990) in the same way as challenges against the substantive decisions themselves. Prior to these changes being introduced, where an award of costs was made in planning and listed buildings cases it could only be challenged through a separate application for judicial review.

To reflect and support these changes there has also been an update to the Civil Procedure Rules, and their accompanying Practice Directions.

The Government motive behind these changes in the CJCA 2015 is to allow spurious cases to be dealt with more quickly, allowing court resources to be better focused on determining those cases with merit more efficiently. Time will tell if they will have the desired effect.