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Planning Court to launch on 6 April 2014

In addition to other planning reforms referred to in the Chancellor’s Budget Report on 19 March was the announcement of the imminent launch of the Planning Court:

“2.251 Judicial Review reform – The government, working closely with the judiciary, will launch a new Planning Court on 6 April 2014 to fast-track disputes, including big construction projects.”

The new rules for the Planning Court have been published, coming into effect on 6 April 2014, in the form of the Civil Procedure (Amendment No.3) Rules 2014 (SI 2014 No. 610) which introduce as a new CPR Part 54.21-54.24 (with an error in one sub-rule) the procedural rules for the new Court:

II PLANNING COURT
General
54.21.-(1) This Section applies to Planning Court claims.
(2) In this Section, "Planning Court claim" means a judicial review or statutory challenge which-
(a) involves any of the following matters-

(i) planning permission, other development consents, the enforcement of planning control and the enforcement of other statutory schemes;
(ii) applications under the Transport and Works Act 1992;
(iii) wayleaves;
(iv) highways and other rights of way;
(v) compulsory purchase orders;
(vi) village greens;
(vii) European Union environmental legislation and domestic transpositions, including assessments for development consents, habitats, waste and pollution control;
(viii) national, regional or other planning policy documents, statutory or otherwise; or
(ix) any other matter the judge appointed under rule 54.22(2); and

(b) has been issued or transferred to the Planning Court.
(Part 30 (Transfer) applies to transfers to and from the Planning Court.)
Specialist list
54.22.-(1) The Planning Court claims form a specialist list.
(2) 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.
Application of the Civil Procedure Rules
54.23. These Rules and their practice directions will apply to Planning Court claims unless this section or a practice direction provides otherwise.
Further provision about Planning Court claims
54.24. Practice Direction 54E makes further provision about Planning Court claims, in particular about the timescales for determining such claims.”

It appears from the Rules that the new Court will hear challenges under s. 288 and 289 of the 1990 Act, plan challenges under s. 113 of the 2004 Act and CPO challenges under the Acquisition of Land Act 1990 and also judicial review on planning, environmental and related issues. There is an error (perhaps indicative of the fact that this has been brought forward urgently) in Part 54.21(2)(a)(ix) which is plainly incomplete and appears intended to allow the new Court to hear any case permitted by the Planning Liaison Judge.

Practice Direction (PF 54E) had not yet been published nor has any announcement been made as to the new Planning Liaison Judge. Under the current “planning fast track” the Administrative Court website notes that “Mr Justice Lindblom... has day to day oversight of the progress of planning cases.”