The DETR's right to call in planning applications was this week called into question under the new Human Rights Act.
In a landmark judgment, High Court judges ruled that the secretary of state for the environment's decision to call in a car storage site in Canvey Island, Essex, was not compatible with the new European directive.

A second judgment also ruled that planning inquiries into government-owned land contravene the Human Rights Act. Alconbury Developments sought an outcome in the case after residents invoked the law to challenge a development on Ministry of Defence land in Alconbury, Cambridgeshire. The DETR is expected to appeal.

A number of cases concerning the state of the current planning process under the Human Rights Act are awaiting judgment.

Motor vehicle service firm Holding and Barnes claimed that as the planning policy maker, the minister could not guarantee it a fair trial, as required by article 6 of the Human Rights Act.

The secretary of state's right to make compulsory purchase orders and his right to make decisions regarding developments on government-owned land are also being challenged in court. A third case regards a developer's right to a fair trial.

Scottish planning laws have already been challenged under the act in a case that is set to go to appeal. The Human Rights Act became part of English law on 2 October.

Planning lawyers have predicted that the act could also be applied to prime contracting or PFI projects.