High Court dismisses challenge to planning reforms

25th November 2020 Real Estate Commercial

The High Court has dismissed a judicial review case which sought to challenge the Government’s introduction of new planning legislation. In a judgment on 17 November 2020, it rejected the arguments of the Claimant lobby group ‘Rights: Community: Action’, which had sought to persuade the court that the legislation was introduced without proper consultation and without an environmental assessment.

This legislation included:

  • An overhaul of the Use Classes which categorise the use that land and buildings can be put to;
  • Permitting upward extensions for residential development; and
  • Permitting demolition of certain commercial buildings for residential redevelopment.

The Claimant had argued that an environmental assessment should have been undertaken, as well as claiming that the Government failed to comply with the Equality Act 2010 and its duty to properly consider the responses to earlier consultations.

The High Court, in rejecting the claimant’s arguments, made it clear that the court was not responsible for making any ‘political, social or economic choices’. It also recognised that the Government had needed to intervene in the economy in unprecedented ways, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reforms

The changes to the Use Classes represent a significant overhaul to the previous system. Several classes have been abolished, with new Classes E and F being introduced. Class E now covers a very broad range of uses, as it incorporates the now revoked Classes A1, A2, A3, B1, D1(a-b) and part of Class D2(e).

This broader Class will provide more flexibility in relation to potential permitted development, as a change of use within the same class will not require planning permission. The new Class E therefore provides developers with a much wider scope for any potential redevelopment plans.

Likewise, the policies relating to upward extension and demolition will surely make a difference for those working in the commercial property sector. In relation to upward extensions, there are four new permitted development rights. These allow extensions for new flats on top of certain existing commercial, mixed used and residential properties.

Demolition is also now permitted for certain vacant commercial and residential buildings, if they are replaced by either a detached block of flats or dwellinghouse within three years. There is no requirement to obtain planning permission for this work, although prior approval from the Local Planning Authority will be necessary.

Whilst the Government will be pleased with the court’s decision, some uncertainty does remain, due to the High Court granting permission to the Claimant to appeal.

But for the time being, it looks as though the legislation is here to stay and it will be interesting to see the impact they will have on commercial development in 2021.

For advice and assistance regarding planning law, or commercial real estate matters in general, please contact the team.​​​​​​

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Rachel Jarvis is a Trainee Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Trainee Solicitors department

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