As there is no statutory right of appeal against a decision by a local planning authority to grant planning permission, the only recourse for a person affected by a proposed development is to make an application to judicially review the local planning authority's decision. However, it is important to note that the procedure cannot be used to challenge the merits of a planning decision and can only be used when all alternative (and appropriate) remedies have been exhausted, including any rights of appeal available. The grounds for bringing an action are normally summarised as:
- illegality - where the decision maker had no power to make or went beyond the power available to them in making a decision
- procedural impropriety or unfairness - a failure in the procedure if the process followed is considered unfair or unjust
- irrationality - where a decision is so unreasonable that no sensible person could have reached that decision
The Civil Procedure Rules and associated judicial review protocol details the procedure to be followed in commencing a judicial review application. The process can be divided into three stages - the pre-action protocol letter stage, the permission stage and the substantive hearing stage.
Applications for judicial review need to be made promptly and in any event within 3 months of the decision complained of (although the court does have the discretion to hear a case outside of this period in exceptional circumstances). It is therefore vital to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
In terms of relief, if the Court does allow the claim, it is able to order one or more of the following:
- A mandatory order - where the Defendant must take a certain step;
- A prohibiting order - where the Defendant must not take a certain step;
- A quashing order - where the decision is quashed and must be taken again
- An injunction - to restrain a person from taking a certain step
- A declaration - to set out the Court's view of the lawfulness of a situation.
If a decision is quashed the Court can remit the matter back to the decision maker to reconsider the matter and then reach a decision in accordance with the Judgment of the Court. However, where the Court considers that there is no purpose to be served in remitting the matter back it may, subject to any other statutory provision, take the decision itself.
We are able to advise on the likelihood of a challenge being successful and deal with the application to the High Court. We also advise clients on the steps that might be taken to minimise the risk of challenge to the grant of planning permission.
Please call us on 01252 617119 to find out how we can assist you.