The Government is committed to reform in the construction sector, including the revision of the planning system. Some of those areas of change are addressed in my previous note, “Planning for Change“, in August.
However, in addition to those changes the Government has also separately brought forward revisions and additions to the use classes. These are hugely significant for development and planning- containing an entirely new use class E covering a range of town centre uses.
After only a matter of days of being in effect the new use classes are already confirmed as the subject of Judicial Review, following a ruling on 2 September 2020.
The Rights: Community: Action (RCA) group brought the claim for JR based on: a lack of an environmental assessment; failure to comply with the public sector equality duty; and a failure to properly consider the consultation responses. The substantive hearing is due to take place between 8 and 15 October.
However, the difficulty with JR is that it rarely strikes a decisive blow. If RCA win then all the Government will need to do is go back and fix whatever issues the Court identifies. Then it can simply reintroduce the new use classes- safe in the knowledge that any procedural errors have now been fixed.
In the interim then developers will need to be mindful of the risks raised by the JR to any legitimate change of use- do developers hold off development, or do they press on and potentially find themselves facing enforcement action if the JR challenge is upheld? Does the development sector really need this further uncertainty at an already uncertain time?
While a knockout blow may be what RCA are seeking, they may simply find delay, costs, and further jangling of the nerves of the development sector.