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5 February 2014 02:54:51|News,Property News

Rural fast-track planning court 'threatens local democracy'


Plans that would limit the ability of communities to challenge developments in the countryside are expected to be unveiled tomorrow as part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
Campaign to Protect Rural England said the reports suggest the new measures will mean only those with a financial interest in a case can bring a challenge, which would put an end to challenges by individuals and campaigners acting in the public interest.
Ministers claim the reforms will lower the burden on courts, but only 1.5% of judicial review applications were related to planning cases, less than 200.
CPRE welcomes more planning expertise in the courts, as well as quicker procedures, but these should not come at the expense of local communities losing the right to challenge bad decisions.
CPRE’s Chief Executive, Shaun Spiers, said: "Judicial review is a crucial democratic safeguard against abuses of power or process. In planning, it is used by communities and campaigning groups with great reluctance and as a last resort. It is costly, time-consuming and stressful – but often the only way to get justice by getting bad developments dropped or at least significantly improved.
"When CPRE and people like us seek to challenge bad decisions - and we do so only very rarely - it is so that we can protect the countryside for future generations, not because of some financial interest.
"The Government should think again about reforms that would limit the right to challenge developers and landowners, and recognise that the public interest can be as important as any sectional financial interests. If the Government removes safeguards for local groups to have their costs limited, developers could win every time.
"This is an interesting curtain raiser to next year’s 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the Great Charter of the Liberties of England. I dread to think what other celebrations the Government has in store."

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