Summary and implications

Important changes are being made to the procedure for bringing judicial review proceedings in planning cases which come into force on 1 July.

The changes are significant because:

  • they reduce the time limit for bringing judicial review proceedings in planning cases from 3 months to 6 weeks;
  • it will now be possible for contracts conditional on planning to become unconditional much earlier; and
  • where a legal challenge to a planning permission is being contemplated it will now be necessary to act very quickly: claimants must make a decision to move to litigation within days of the planning permission they wish to challenge being granted.

What is changing?

  1. the time limit for applying for a judicial review of a planning decision is changing from 3 months to 6 weeks;
  2. the time limit for applying for a judicial review of a procurement decision is reducing from 3 months to 30 days;
  3. a £215 court fee is being introduced for anyone seeking a hearing in person after their initial written judicial review application has been turned down (the current fee is £60); and
  4. claimants are to be precluded from seeking a hearing in person if their initial written application has been ruled by a judge as "totally without merit".

How will this affect you?

The date by which a planning permission is deemed to be free from the risk of legal challenge is likely to be regarded as six weeks rather than three months after the grant of planning permission.

This means that land contracts and other agreements conditional on planning will need to be reviewed to ensure that appropriate provisions are included to deal with the new judicial review procedures.

Challengers to planning decisions will need to act fast (to avoid falling foul of the new deadline), and are likely to make an early application for judicial review, even when a reply to pre-action correspondence is still outstanding. This may initially lead to more rather than fewer legal challenges.

What do you need to do?

You need to very carefully consider the provisions relating to time limits for the bringing of judicial review proceedings when entering into agreements conditional on planning.

Where judicial review of a planning permission is being threatened or contemplated you should work on the assumption that the proceedings will need to be issued shortly after the relevant planning decision and that there will be little (or no) opportunity for pre-action correspondence with other parties before the proceedings have to be issued.

How can we help?

We are well versed in drafting appropriate clauses in agreements conditional on planning to ensure that your interests are protected in the event that planning judicial review proceedings are brought.

Through acting for claimants, defendants and interested parties we are experts in judicial review and can advise you of the tactics that can be deployed to best serve your interests in the event that proceedings are commenced.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.