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What a difference a day makes…

28th May, 2012

A recent case in the Court of Appeal has highlighted how important it is to stick to statutory time limits when challenging local development plan documents.

Barker -v- Hambleton District Council [2012] involves the unfortunate tale of a trainee solicitor being sent to issue documents at court start a legal challenge against the adoption of one of the Council’s development plan documents. On finding the court closed (it was 7.46pm on the 1st February), the trainee pushed the documents under the door to the front entrance of the court where they lay, unopened, until the following morning. The papers were duly discovered by the court and sealed on the 2nd February.

The issue that arose in the case was the time limits within which a challenge to the development plan document could be made. Under the relevant statutory provisions a challenge had to be lodged “not later than the end of the period of six weeks starting with the relevant date”. The relevant date was the date the plan document had been adopted by the Council; the 21st December 2010.

In the lower court it had been agreed between the parties that the last date for submission was the 1st February 2011 and this assumed the six-week period ran from the 22nd December 2012; the day after the documents had been adopted.

The Court of Appeal disagreed. It determined that because of the wording of the statutory provisions the date that the development plan document was adopted was the start of the 6 week challenge period. Mr Barker’s final date for challenge was therefore the 31st January 2011 and not, as everyone had assumed, the 1st February.

The wording of the statutory provisions is important here. Had they provided for a challenge to be lodged “within six weeks of the relevant date” then the date of adoption would not have been included in the calculation which would have given Mr Barker until the 1st February as originally thought. He would still have been too late though given the circumstances described above.

Given the importance that the National Planning Policy Framework places on local development plans and development plan documents to guide development, it is more important than ever that any challenges are made to these documents within good time. There is no provision for the period of challenge to be extended and, if you miss the deadline, the document will be adopted and will be used to guide future development.

If you wish to discuss challenging local plan documents in your area or any planning issues you may have please contactus on 01244 405555.

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