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High Court London

Judges to consider legal challenge to new planning laws

A legal bid to halt sweeping changes to planning laws in the UK will be heard in October.

Posted on 04 September 2020

The challenge to the Statutory Instruments (SIs) used to bring in the changes is being made by campaigners Rights: Community: Action (RCA) whose claim for judicial review will heard at a ‘rolled up’ hearing in the High Court sitting as a Divisional Court.
The rolled-up hearing means that two judges will hear the group’s application for permission to apply for judicial review, which if successful, will lead into a hearing of the application for judicial review. A listing before the Divisional Court is a recognition of the significance of the case.
Naomi Luhde-Thompson from Rights: Community: Action said:
“The judge’s order is encouraging because it recognises that the case is significant and needs to be heard promptly. RCA’s claim will proceed on all the grounds, challenging the government’s failure to undertake environmental or equalities assessment and its failure to properly consult before making the rules.  The changes brought in by these SIs will have huge ramifications for planning and development across the country. Our challenge to these new planning rules seeks to put a pause on the new statutory instruments so that they can be properly considered.”
RCA has decided not to pursue its application for interim relief in light of the Court’s decision to list the case for hearing on an expedited basis.
Represented by Leigh Day solicitors, RCA’s claim challenges the SIs which, from Monday, 31 August, have allowed the following changes which RCA says will be detrimental to the environment:
  • A detached building, used for offices or industry, can be demolished and replaced with flats within the same footprint, but up to two storeys higher, up to a maximum height of 18 metres.
  • New storeys above an existing dwelling-house will be able to be added without planning permission (permitted development).
  • Change of use for several kinds of building will no longer require planning permission.
The claim is on the following grounds:
  • The failure to carry out an environmental assessment of the SIs, is a breach of Article 3 of the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, because the SIs amount to plans or programmes for the purposes of the Directive.
  • The SIs were introduced without an appropriate equality impact assessment, which is a failure to comply with a Public Sector Equality Duty under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
  • Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has failed to take account of previous consultation responses and the advice of his own experts, which according to established principles, must be “conscientiously taken into account”.
Leigh Day solicitor Tom Short said:
“RCA believes that the manner in which these reforms have been brought in  means they have not undergone proper scrutiny, despite the obvious detrimental impacts they are likely to have. Our client is therefore delighted that they have granted a rolled-up hearing before the Divisional Court and that their case will be heard in a matter of weeks.”
RCA has also been granted costs protection under the Aarhus rules for environmental claims.