New Planning Court Gets Go Ahead To Support UK Growth



Published on 05 February 2014


by The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP

(WireNews+Co)

London, England

Scales Of Justice
Scales Of Justice

Key building projects which generate thousands of jobs in communities across the UK will benefit from changes to tackle costly and unnecessary legal delays under plans to speed up and reform the Judicial Review system announced today by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling


Legal disputes over major developments will be fast-tracked for consideration by a new Planning Court which will be established by this Summer, to support the Government’s long term plan for economic recovery.

The move will see an estimated 400 planning cases a year resolved more quickly by being fast-tracked for hearings with specialist judges, instead of clogging the main Administrative Court. It will support the growing economy by reducing unnecessary and costly legal delays which developers have previously blamed for the collapse of potential major building schemes.

The strong package of reforms to the Judicial Review (JR) system will also include changes to make sure anyone making a JR claim faces a fair level of financial risk – ending the current situation where individuals and campaign groups can cause expensive delays with no cost or risk for themselves.

The changes have been designed to speed up the running of the JR process, while also driving out meritless cases which clog the courts and slow progress for legitimate applications.

Some of the measures will become part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which has been introduced to Parliament today.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

‘Judicial Review must continue its role as a crucial check on the powers that be – but we cannot allow meritless cases to be a brake on economic growth. That would be bad for the economy, the taxpayer and the job-seeker, and bad for confidence in justice.

‘These changes will bring balance to the Judicial Review system, so justice is done but unmerited, costly and time-wasting applications no longer stifle progress.’

The plans announced today, following a consultation from September 2012 to November 2012, also include:

  • Speeding up appeals in important cases by making it possible more often for them to be considered by the Supreme Court without first going to the Court of Appeal. This change means cases could be resolved months, and in some cases more than a year, quicker.
  • Changing the rules around who has to pay the legal bills for cases – so all parties have an equal interest in ensuring unnecessary costs are not racked up. This includes:
    • Stopping taxpayers from having to subsidise cases unnecessarily by limiting the use of Protective Costs Orders (PCOs) to exceptional cases with a clear public interest. At present PCOs can be used by claimants to make the defendant authority bear the legal costs regardless of the outcome of the case.
    • Ensuring that details of anyone financially backing a JR are disclosed, even if they are not a named party, so that costs can be fairly allocated. In the past backers have used individuals, and even set up new companies, to front JRs – meaning that any assessments by the court of the financial capacity of the applicant have not always been a fair representation.
    • Making third parties who join in a JR case as “interveners” responsible for paying their own way - for example when a campaign group applies to become involved in a case already taking place between an individual and an authority. At present other parties in the case can be ordered to cover the legal costs of the intervener. In future these third parties will also have to compensate other parties if they cause them to run up greater legal bills unnecessarily.
    • Making applicants who take weak cases to a second chance hearing (known as an oral renewal) pay some of the legal bill encountered by the other side in the process of preparing their defence more often, through changes to the Court Rules. The defendant is often the Government, meaning these costs currently have to be met by taxpayers.
  • Stopping JRs which are based on technical flaws in the original decision-making process, when it is highly likely that the end result would have remained the same.
  • Targeting legal aid funding at JR cases which have merit, so the legal aid system commands public confidence and credibility.

There has been a huge growth in the number of judicial review applications in recent years, causing the whole system to slow down despite the fact only a small proportion succeed.

Applications more than doubled from 4,300 in 2000 to 12,600 in 2012. Yet, of the 440 which went on to a final hearing without being refused permission, withdrawn or settled in 2011 just 170 went in favour of the applicant. In 2012 the vast majority of applications, more than 10,000, were for immigration and asylum cases – and almost 200 were on planning issues.

Cases often take more than a year to resolve. For planning cases, the average time to resolve an application which went all the way to a final hearing was 370 days in 2011.

The new reforms follow changes to speed up the JR process already implemented by the Government last year, including:

  • Halving the time limit for applying for a JR of a planning decision from three months to six weeks.
  • Reducing the time limit for applying for a JR of a procurement decision from three months to 30 days.
  • Stopping people from having a “second chance” hearing if their initial written application is ruled ;totally without merit’ by a judge and – where a “second chance” hearing is still allowed - introducing a £215 court fee for it.
  • Consulting on increasing the initial application fee from £60 to £135 and the fee for a “second chance” or final hearing to £680.

Handling of immigration and asylum JR cases was also transferred in November to the specialist Upper Tier tribunal – making use of its expert judges, and freeing up the High Court which previously heard these cases.

 


For more information about this press release visit https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-planning-court-gets-go-ahead-to-support-uk-growth

 


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Posted 2014-02-05 17:09:00