The first stage of the government’s reforms to judicial review – the creation of a Planning Court for England and Wales – has come into operation with the aim of speeding up the court process and reducing delays to hundreds of infrastructure projects.
More than 30 cases are already scheduled to be heard in the next three months, with an estimated 400 planning cases a year expected to be resolved by using the Planning Court rather than the main Administrative Court.
The court is based at the Royal Courts of Justice but will be able to sit at other regional venues across England and Wales when necessary. It will hear judicial reviews and other appeals on planning issues.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are making sure that big building projects, which create thousands of jobs in our communities, don’t get held up by unnecessary delays in the legal process.
“The new Planning Court will make sure cases are heard quicker and by judges with specialist expertise of planning issues. It is crucial step forwards.”
Last year the time limit for applying for a judicial review of a planning decision was halved from three months to six weeks.
Most of the changes to JR are being introduced through the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is currently before Parliament. They include significant changes to the costs rules, as well as widening the criteria to allow certain high-profile cases to leapfrog from the High Court to the Supreme Court.
Challenges over procedural defects will also be changed. At the moment the court can refuse to grant permission or award a final remedy on the basis that it is “inevitable” that the complained-of failure would not have made a difference to the original outcome; the threshold will be brought down to “highly unlikely”.