Government says new specialised planning court could make speedy decisions over judicial review applications for major projects

Decisions over judicial review applications for major projects would only be taken by expert judges in special planning courts, under proposals outlined by the government.

The proposals, included in a consultation published by the Ministry of Justice, would see judicial review decisions relating to major developments taken by expert judges within a new “planning chamber”, which would be a special court focused on planning decisions.

The new “planning chamber” is one of a package of proposals that the MoJ said was designed to speed up the judicial review process and “drive out meritless cases which clog up courts and slow the progress of legitimate applications”.

Other proposals include:

  • 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 could include making applicants who bring spurious cases pay some of the legal bill encountered by the defendant
  • Targeting legal aid funding at cases with merit, so that the legal aid system commands public confidence and credibility.
  • 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

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “These proposals will ensure legal challenges are heard swiftly, so crucial new building projects no longer fall by the wayside because of needless delays.

He said: “We want to make sure judicial review continues its crucial role in holding authorities and others to account, but also that it is used for the right reasons and is not abused by people to cause vexatious delays or to generate publicity for themselves at the expense of ordinary tax-payers.”