Friday, 28 March 2014

Planning Court will open for business on April 7

The Planning Court, which (like the Administrative Court) will be part of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, is due to open for business on Monday 7 April. So far as the actual applications are concerned, this is just a paper change, although we are promised that specialist planning judges will be assigned to hear cases in this list. This is perhaps the most important and most welcome change brought about by this reform.

The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 have been amended to cater for the new arrangements, and the changes are set out in the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 3) Rules 2014, which will come into effect on 6 April.

An application which will in future be known as “a Planning Court claim” is defined as a judicial review (under CPR Part 54) or statutory challenge (e.g. under sections 287, 288 or 289 of the 1990 Planning Act, among other statutory rights of challenge) which involves planning permission, other development consents, the enforcement of planning control and the enforcement of other statutory schemes; applications under the Transport and Works Act 1992; wayleaves; highways and other rights of way; compulsory purchase orders; village greens; European Union environmental legislation and domestic transpositions, including assessments for development consents, habitats, waste and pollution control; national, regional or other planning policy documents, statutory or otherwise; or any other matter the Planning Liaison Judge [may determine]. (There is a misprint in the Rules, and the words in square brackets, or words to similar effect, are missing.)

These claims must be issued in future in the Planning Court, and there is power to transfer matters to that court under Part 30 of the CPR. The Planning Court claims will form a specialist list. A judge nominated by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division will be in charge of the Planning Court specialist list and will be known as the Planning Liaison Judge. There is a Practice Direction (54E) that deals with procedure in more detail, but I don’t propose to trouble readers with this.

The new rules will apply to all claims issued on or after 7 April 2014, but I understand that claims in the categories listed above which are issued before that date (in the Administrative Court) will also be transferred to the Planning Court after that date.

The only point which remains unclear is whether the Planning Court, like the Administrative Court, will sit in trial centres outside London. In view of the intention that judges sitting in the Planning Court should be planning specialists, it may not be practicable for the Planning Court to sit in other centres. I don’t see that as a problem. Specialist counsel from London chambers will be briefed in the vast majority of cases, and so it will no doubt be convenient for these cases to be heard in the RCJ in the Strand.

It only remains to wish success to the new Planning Court and to all who sail in her.


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