Legal challenge to block government's latest use class order and permitted development changes lodged in High Court

A campaign group has progressed its legal bid to block the government's latest deregulation of planning rules, which aims to suspend the impending introduction of the town centre use class shake-up as well as new residential permitted development (PD) rights.

London's Royal Courts of Justice. Pic: Getty Images
London's Royal Courts of Justice. Pic: Getty Images

In July, the government announced that it was pressing ahead with extending the use of PD rights to allow the upward expansions of existing homes and the demolition and rebuild of vacant residential and commercial buildings. It also introduced a major overhaul of the use classes order, introducing a new town centre use class, class E, which would combine a number of previously seperate use classes.

The new regulations introducing these changes will come into force at 10am on Monday 31 August - the day before Parliament reconvenes.

Last week, campaign group Rights : Community : Action (RCA), which describes itself as a "coalition of campaigners, lawyers, planners, facilitators, writers and scientists, united by a shared commitment to tackle the Climate Emergency", issued a pre-action letter to the housing secretary advising him of the group's intention to challenge the proposed changes via the courts.

The group claimed the new measures will come into effect "without proper consultation and without parliamentary debate", while ministers "entirely ignored" warnings about the potential impacts of the changes.

Other grounds of challenge include that the government "unlawfully failed to carry out an environmental assessment" of the SIs, and that they were introduced "without an appropriate equality impact assessment".

The letter gave the minister until midday on Wednesday 26 August to "suspend the coming into effect of the SIs, pending the required SEA, impact assessments and Parliamentary debate".

If he does not, the letter said, the campaign group "will seek an urgent interim order suspending the operation of the SIs until the legal challenge is resolved".

RCA and their solicitors Leigh Day have now announced that, following the passing of the Wednesday deadline, the claim has been formally filed in the High Court. 

According to Leigh Day, the judicial review application seeks a "declaration that the Statutory Instruments (SIs) used to bring in the changes are unlawful and an urgent interim order to stay their coming into effect until its legal challenge is resolved".

RCA representative Naomi Luhde-Thompson said: “The PM admits that these are the biggest planning reforms since the Second World War, yet they’re being rushed through with scant regard for previous consultation and in a period which excludes the input of MPs.

“The reforms were laid before Parliament the day before the summer recess and come into force the day before Parliament reconvenes.  Our aim is to halt them to allow for a proper, reasonable and measured consultation.

“We believe these changes will have a phenomenally negative impact on the people and environment of towns and cities across England. That’s why we feel compelled to act so urgently.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “The government will fully respond in due course. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time."

More details on the grounds of the group's challenge can be found here.

Rights: Community: Action is being represented by barristers Paul Brown QC and Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers and solicitors Tom Short and Carol Day of Leigh Day.

NOTE: this story was updated at 11am on Tuesday 1 September to add a comment by the MHCLG

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