Campaigners granted High Court hearing for legal challenge to PD right and use class changes

A campaign group has been granted a High Court hearing for its legal challenge to the government's permitted development (PD) and use classes order changes that came into effect earlier this week, but its bid to suspend the controversial new rules with immediate effect has been withdrawn.

London's Royal Courts of Justice.
London's Royal Courts of Justice.

Last week, Rights : Community : Action (RCA) announced that it had filed a claim against the new residential PD rights and the town centre use class order revisions in the High Court.

In a ruling issued on 2 September, High Court judge Mr Justice Holgate said the case would be heard as a “rolled up hearing” for 1.5 days between 8 and 15 October by a divisional court. “If permission to apply for Judicial Review is granted at that hearing, the Court will proceed immediately to determine the substantive claim,” the court order said.

A representative of law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for RCA, said this means that, should the court grant such permission, “the entire judicial review will be heard there and then”.

RCA, which earlier set out its case for the bid, said in a statement: "In the circumstances, RCA has decided not to pursue its application for interim relief which would have suspended the new planning laws while the claim proceeds."

It said its challenge to the new planning rules "has the potential to overrule the new statutory instruments (SIs)... which carries huge implications for planning and development across the country".

But Rumball Sedgwick planning consultant Michael Fearn told Planning this could have consequences for cases where a legitimate change of use was made to a premises in the interim period. “If the change is struck down, a new shop [on a hitherto differently classed premises] could face an enforcement case.”

The government announced in July 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, bringing together a number of previously seperate use classes.

Both measures came into effect on 31 August, the day before Parliament reconvened.

RCA, which describes itself as a "coalition of campaigners, lawyers, planners, facilitators, writers and scientists", claimed the new measures were being brought in "without proper consultation and without parliamentary debate", while ministers "entirely ignored" warnings about the potential impacts of the changes.

Other grounds for its legal 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".

*NOTE: This article's headline and introduction were updated at 10am on Thursday 10 September to make clear that the campaign group was "granted" a High Court hearing for its challenge, rather than "won" a hearing.

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