Judicial Review is a legal process which allows a claimant to challenge a planning decision, which if upheld requires the planning body to consider the objections raised. For developers and planners Judicial Review can be a substantial risk to projects and the risk of judicial review can potentially become a funding limitation.

Chris Gwynn, Lead Underwriter for CLS Risk Solutions and an expert within the field, shared their experience with the process: “One in five Judicial Review claims are successful for the applicants, and it brings a risk of interruption, modification and annulment. It therefore brings a huge financial implication to projects.”

Chris went on to discuss the innovative products CLS Risk Solutions have brought to the market to help offset the risks associated with judicial review – and more details can be found here.

Also joining the panel was Meeta Kaur, Partner at Town Legal LLP. She specified the grounds for a review: “A judicial review is not an opportunity to go over the merits of a proposal or decision again; it’s a much narrower review. There are also clear time limits that claimants have – for challenging planning decisions it’s six weeks, and it’s a strict limit, the courts are pretty rigorous about that.”

Chris once again raised the challenges and risks this brings which CLS can help mitigate. If a claim is approved it can dramatically drag out the process, lasting up to 12-24 months in some cases.

Meeta raised some area that commonly come up as reasons for review: “The Local Authority Equality Duty comes up quite often and the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was for years a fertile area.”

She also stressed the importance of consultation saying that developers should consider “how they can adapt the development to local concerns” and expressed that there was “a lot of common sense to be gained from residents.”

A judicial review is unique in its power for individuals and communities to challenge official planning decisions, as Paul Bedwell, Senior Director at Pegasus Group, described: “There’s no third party right of appeal, so if you are looking to challenge a decision then the judicial review process is the only option available to you.”

Paul also highlighted how the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic had affected the Judicial Review process with the difficulties leading to more opportunities for reviews: “Procedural errors were made while local planning authorities were wrestling with new technology and how to conduct decisions.”

Despite this Paul said that there “was no evidence of delays within the review process.”

There are also upcoming changes to the process highlighted in a recent government white paper. Paul explained that the government had claimed that most challenges were due to imprecise and unclearly worded law and they intend to reduce the ambiguity and therefore grounds for a review. However, he added that streamlining the planning process would not necessarily prevent judicial review claims as some stakeholders may feel side-lined by the lack of engagement during planning.

The consensus amongst the experts was that the easiest way to handle a judicial review is to avoid having one in the first place, to de-risk projects during the planning phase and to engage in genuine and sustained community relations. Being rigorous and avoiding legal ambiguities is also important to ensure there’s no basis for a challenge.

You can find out more about CLS Risk Solutions here: https://www.clsl.co.uk/risksolutions