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New infrastructure court to help tackle judicial review delays

The Ministry of Justice will lead on plans to establish a specialist planning court with set deadlines to accelerate cases so more appeals can go straight to the Supreme Court and speed up infrastructure delivery

AJ sister title Construction News understands the MoJ will report on plans for the new court in January to establish a specialist planning court with set deadlines to accelerate the handling of cases, and introduce legislation to ensure that minor procedural claims are dealt with proportionally.

The Government believes judicial reviews have created unacceptable delays to the development of crucial infrastructure and housing projects.

Of the 194 planning judicial reviews in 2011, the majority were either refused permission or awarded in favour of the defendant, but took on average 100 days to reach a permission decision and 375 days to reach a final hearing.

Chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander will set out a range of announcements on the plan to meet the infrastructure needs of the UK.

The government will publish a new National Infrastructure Plan containing a pipeline of over £375bn of planned infrastructure up to 2030 and beyond. It will make further announcements including the creation of a new court for infrastructure to avoid judicial review delays impacting on major projects; a proposed UK Guarantee for a new nuclear station at Wylfa; and £50m for a full redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick Airport.

The government will also confirm strike prices for renewable energy; fund improvements to the A50 around Uttoxeter starting no later than 2015/16.

It will also build on the Spending Round commitment of £2.3 billion capital investment for flood defences by developing a new long-term plan, including naming key projects by  Autumn Statement 2014 and look at options to bring private capital into the Green Investment Bank to enable it to operate more freely in delivering its objectives.

The original NIP identified ’40 priority infrastructure projects’ and programmes, in the rail, road and energy sectors, with only a small number completed to date.

Major projects in the pipeline included: High Speed 2; Crossrail; National Grid; and Hinkley Point C, which are a considerable way from completion.

Funding under the UK guarantees scheme was brought in to speed up the infrastructure projects in October 2013 by underwriting up to £40bn of the schemes.

Hinkley Point was named as one of the government’s prequalified projects under the scheme, securing £10bn of the £40bn total.

It is now awaiting state aid approval from the European Commission to be announced in January, before construction can go ahead.

Despite speculation over the outcome of the verdict in January, Conservative MEP Giles Chichester told Construction News that the project would go ahead but was uncertain about whether the project would remain on time.

He added: “I regret that this is taking such an unconsciously long time to get off the ground… I think it’s a great pity because we desperately need new nuclear power.”

Mr Alexander is also expected to announce the go-ahead to a £1.5bn expansion of East Anglia’s A14 road. There will be no tolling on the planned A14 scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon, construction of which is planned to start in 2016 and will be funded by taxpayers.

The project had initially been dumped back in 2010 due to excessive costs, when a toll suggestion was introduced to subsidise this. The toll proposal has since been scrapped, and Treasury is now expected to fully fund the project.

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