A proposal has recently been submitted for planning disputes concerning large building projects to be fast tracked through a specialist court.
It is proposed that each year, an average of around 400 planning matters will be heard by specialist judges, in a designated court, in accordance with a set time table. This is to help prevent the courts being tied up with challenges to planning applications which have no merit. The cases will relate to a variety of large development projects, including schools and shopping centres.
The proposal is hoped to help reduce judicial review claims, which in the last ten years have trebled to over 12,500 per year. In 2011, 440 cases progressed to a final hearing; however, only 170 were decided in favour of the applicant.
It is part of a series of measures being proposed in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
Accordingly to The Times law section, if the measures are introduced, only those with a financial interest in a case can bring a challenge. Currently, challenges can be made by individuals and campaigners who have no financial interest in the project and do not pay any legal costs.
In future, if the proposals are put in place, campaigners attempting to prevent projects being commenced will need to demonstrate that they have the financial backing so that any costs ordered can be paid.
The measures are bound to be welcomed by builders and developers, as well as public authorities, who up to now have had to bear the additional costs in defending the rising number of judicial challenges. To date, legal challenges to building projects can continue for years. This has created a great deal of uncertainty for businesses and local authorities, and has potentially contributed to the collapse of major building projects.
However, there is concern that a cut back on judicial review cases could result in unlawful or incorrect decisions going unchecked. Only time will tell if the concerns become a reality.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is expected to have its second reading debate on 24 February 2014. This Government Bill was presented to Parliament on 5 February 2014. This is known as the first reading and there was no debate on the Bill at this stage.
If the Bill passes second reading and is committed to a public Bill committee the membership of the committee will be published in Votes and Proceedings and posted on the parliament website under ‘Commons Public Bill Committee’. The Thursday following the second reading of the Bill is the earliest point that this can come into force , but could possibly be later
For more information or to follow the progress of the Bill, go to – http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/criminaljusticeandcourts.html or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.