Planning-related judicial reviews have higher success rate, figures show

Planning-related judicial review attempts have had a higher rate of success in the courts over the past five years than other types of similar legal challenges, figures revealed in Parliament show.

The figures were revealed via a Parliamentary question
The figures were revealed via a Parliamentary question

Last month, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the government wanted to restrict objectors’ rights to mount legal challenges to projects they oppose in an effort to speed up development.

In a speech, Cameron said he wanted to cut the number of judicial reviews, claiming they were hampering economic growth and that many applications were "completely pointless".

A Downing Street statement to accompany the speech said "the risk of a judicial review can hold up major infrastructure projects".

But, as a judicial review hearing launched by objectors to the government’s High Speed Two rail project takes place in the High Court, a written parliamentary answer has revealed that planning-related judicial review attempts appear to be made on more robust grounds than other types.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show that, between 2007 and 2011, planning-related judicial reviews have consistently been more likely to be granted a court hearing compared to all other judicial reviews, and have also had a higher success rate in overturning decisions.

Judicial review applications are made in writing and determined by a judge at the Administrative Court in London. Those considered to have no basis are rejected at this stage, while successful applications are granted a court hearing.

In the House of Commons last week, justice minister Jeremy Wright disclosed previously-unpublished statistics on the success rate of specifically planning-related applications in response to a question from Labour MP and former health secretary Frank Dobson.

Dobson asked how many applications for judicial review related to planning or infrastructure proposals, in each year since 1998, were, firstly, allowed to proceed to a hearing and, secondly, subsequently granted.

In his answer, Wright said that, in 2011, there were 191 such applications, of which 61 were allowed a hearing and six were granted.

In 2010, there were 148 applications, 46 court hearings and 17 successes. In 2009, the respective figures were 165, 64 and 15.

Comparing these figures to all judicial reviews in the same period shows that the number of planning-related applications is a tiny proportion of the total and the steep rise in applications in recent years is due to an increase in the number of immigration and asylum-related cases.

The proportion of planning-related applications allowed a court hearing has remained consistent, between 31 and 39 per cent, over the past five years.

But for all types of judicial review, the proportion allowed a hearing has been between 9.5 per cent and 13 per cent – only about a third of the rate for planning - over the same period.

The proportion of planning-related applications achieving a successful result has varied from a low of 3 per cent in 2011 to a high of 11.5 per cent in 2010.

For all types, the success rate between 2007 and 2011 is only between 1.5 per cent and 3 per cent.

The full figures can be found here.

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