Environmental judicial review is dominated by land-use planning decisions.

Across the UK, urban ‘regeneration’ is forcing working-class communities from the places they call home. 

It’s well known that displacement is central to the process of gentrification, but the importance of legal challenge as a means of resistance is often overlooked. Planning decisions that affect your community, or council estate, are potentially open to challenge.

‘Development’ or Gentrification?

As demand for affordable housing rises, particularly in London, our council estates are attracting a new wave of ‘urban renewal investment.’ This kind of urban development, in which private finance and large building companies are invited to ‘regenerate’ council estates, has been enthusiastically adopted by many local councils. 

To accelerate the process, the government has launched a £150 million Estate Regeneration Programme. This involves loans to private developers for redeveloping existing estates on ‘a mixed tenure basis’ – effectively, the concession of state assets to the private sector. Some council estates that once housed hundreds now house only a handful of council tenants.

Challenging planning decisions 

Planning permission for ‘regeneration’ often fails to take into account the views of the community. In many cases, promises made to local residents are not kept.

If local authorities fail to act lawfully, decisions on ‘regeneration’ can be challenged.

Planning decisions can be appealed to the planning inspector and, ultimately, challenged in the courts, if there is evidence that the process by which the decision was made was unlawful. Court challenges can be complex, lengthy and costly. But, backed by a vigorous community campaign, they can help defeat ‘regeneration’ plans that fail to put the local community first.

A useful guide to challenging planning decisions can be found here.

Judicial review time limits

An application for permission for judicial review normally has an absolute deadline of three months. However, strict time limits apply to both statutory reviews and judicial review.  Under s. 288 of Town & Country Planning Act 1990, applications for judicial review must be made within six weeks of the date of the decision. It is important to act promptly – if in doubt, seek advice early.