Judicial Review lost – but we intend to appeal

We’ve just received news from the High Court that our claim for Judicial Review of the Government’s changes to permitted development rights was not successful. We respect the decision, but we believe it is on the wrong side of the public interest. We intend to appeal.

Using the pandemic crisis to push through a giveaway of public rights to private interests is not only outrageous of itself – it’s turning back time to the Victorian slums.

Why we brought the claim

Rights: Community: Action recently brought an urgent Judicial Review to challenge the government’s new planning laws. Back in June, when the Prime Minister announced the new laws, he hailed them as the most “radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War… [giving] greater freedom for buildings and land in our town centres to change use without planning permission.”

The Prime Minister wasn’t wrong – the changes are radical. They’ll have enormous consequences for the places we live, the environment and most crucially on our democratic right to have a say. 

Land-use planning originally grew out of the Victorian public health crisis. Uncontrolled development resulted in appalling slum housing. Planning reform grew to solve that crisis. The central premise was that the public interest – concerns over people’s health, the environment they live in, access to schools and education – should always take precedence over a developer’s profit.

After WWII the then government went further by introducing the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. That radical Act nationalised the right to develop land.  Owning land was no longer enough to allow you to develop it. From 1947 you needed permission.

Yet now according to the Prime Minister deciding the sort of places we live in on a locally democratic basis is ‘outdated’. With these new laws, Permitted Development Rights (PDR’s) hand national development rights to the private sector. A developer’s interests will now take precedence over the public interest.

People’s homes and communities matter; we have a right to have a say. These new laws silence communities, and produce slum housing – as many agree, including council leaders. That’s why we took the Government to court.

Grounds to appeal

Our legal team argued that there had been no environmental assessment and no proper consideration of the impact on those most disadvantaged (as Shelter discusses here), and a failure to keep a promise to consult beforehand.

The Judges have now made their decision and we have lost the case. We fully respect the legal process, but we firmly believe that there are grounds to appeal. 

The judgment deems these new permanent set of laws justifiable given the current economic emergency caused by Covid-19. The court papers state that the Government did not need an environmental assessment because it wasn’t required to do so by European law. They say that the Government had considered the impact on the most disadvantaged, despite Shelter disagreeing and supporting our case.  Regarding the promise to consult, it was decided that there was no need for the Government to keep that promise, because of the economic difficulties arising out of the pandemic and the need to ‘stimulate regeneration’.

With this judgment, public interest planning is over in England. But the stakes are too high for people’s health and well-being in relation to living in poor housing – this is a case that must be appealed.

More information

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