Navigating time limits in judicial review: key insights and case studies

Alexandra Ground, Partner in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, real estate planning and construction team.
Alex Ground
5 min Read

Real estate, planning and construction expert Alex Ground discuss the importance of limitation periods in judicial review applications.

What is judicial review?

Before diving into time limits, let's briefly touch upon what judicial review is. Judicial review is a process where a court reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

It's a vital aspect of administrative law and serves as a check on the power of government and other public authorities.

Understanding time limits in judicial review

The time limits for filing a judicial review are crucial and are strictly enforced. Generally, you must apply for a judicial review:

  1. promptly (this means as soon as possible); and,
  2. within six weeks (for all planning related cases and within three months for non-planning related cases). This is the maximum time limit, starting from the date when the grounds for the review first arose.

However, it's important to note that these time limits can vary depending on the specifics of your case and the court's discretion.

Why are time limits important?

Adhering to time limits is essential because:

  • it is fair in that it ensures all parties involved have clarity and certainty
  • it is efficient in that it helps in the swift administration of justice
  • it ensures legal certainty by upholding the principle of finality in decision-making

Exceptions to the rule

In rare cases, courts may extend the time limit if there are compelling reasons.

Cases where extensions of time have been granted for several years

Overview of judicial review time limits

  • Standard time limit: typically, a claim for judicial review in planning decisions must be filed within six weeks from the decision date, as per CPR 54.5(5)
  • Strict adherence: courts generally do not entertain applications filed after this six-week period

Exceptions in recent case law

  • Occasional flexibility: despite the strict rule, recent legal precedents indicate that courts may, in exceptional cases, consider late judicial review claims

Case studies highlighting extensions

Case 1: R (Croyde Area Residents Association) v North Devon DC

  • Background: this case involved a judicial review of a planning permission granted in 2014 for a holiday park expansion
  • Issue uncovered: an error in the 2014 permission inadvertently expanded the park's area, unnoticed until 2018
  • Court's decision: the High Court ruled the planning permission unlawful and decided to quash it, despite the delay in challenging the decision
  • Key considerations: the court weighed the lack of prejudice to the owner, the integrity of the planning system, and the fact that the unlawful extension was not yet implemented

Case 2: Thornton Hall Hotel Case

  • Scenario: Thornton Holding received planning permission in 2011, erroneously issued without any conditions, including a crucial time limit.
  • Judicial review filed: Thornton Hall Hotel, a competitor, filed for a judicial review five years later, challenging the council's decision.
  • Outcome: the High Court, and subsequently the Court of Appeal, granted the extension for the judicial review, emphasising the need to maintain the planning system's integrity.

Key Takeaways

  • Rare exceptions: while the norm is strict adherence to the six-week limit, courts may grant extensions in rare cases where it serves justice and the planning system's integrity.
  • Case-by-case basis: each instance of a late judicial review claim is assessed on its unique circumstances, considering factors like potential prejudice, legal errors, and the impact on the planning system.

Cases where extension of time, even of a few days, was refused


In the legal realm, the significance of adhering to deadlines is paramount, as illustrated by the case of Save Britain’s Heritage. This case serves as a crucial example of the strict enforcement of time limits in legal proceedings.

Key dates and decision

  • Critical dates: the case hinged on two dates – the decision-making date (30 July) and the notification date (4 August)
  • High Court's determination: the High Court identified 30 July as the start of the six-week limit for filing a claim

Consequences of delay

  • Late filing: the claim was filed a few days past the deadline, leading to its rejection
  • High court's stance on extension: despite the brief delay, the High Court declined to extend the time limit

Factors influencing the Court’s decision

  • Lack of justification: the claimant did not provide a reason for the late filing
  • Pre-action protocol letter: the claimant had already submitted a detailed pre-action protocol letter on 17 August
  • Knowledge of decision date: the claimant was aware of the 30 July decision date, which the court felt gave them sufficient time to file within the six-week period

This case underscores the critical nature of meeting legal deadlines. The High Court's decision reflects a strict adherence to time limits, emphasising the need for prompt action in legal challenges.


It is best always to try and comply with the six-week time limit where possible and file the claim within time even if the grounds of challenge are not completely finalised (you can seek to add to them later if necessary).

If you fail to do this, there is significant risk that an extension of time will not be granted.

If you do need to apply for an extension of time, you will need to show that no prejudice will be caused as a result of the late claim, that significant harm will be caused to the credibility of the planning system if the extension of time is not granted because the planning permission was unlawful, and that there was a clear error by the Local Planning Authority.

Get in touch

If you would like to speak with a member of the team you can contact our real estate planning and construction solicitors; Holborn office (Email Holborn)  +44 (0)20 3826 7523; Kingston office (Email Kingston) +44 (0)20 3826 7518; Putney office (Email Putney) +44 (0)20 3826 7518 or complete our form.

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