In a statement dated 3 November 2021, the Master of the Rolls (Sir Geoffrey Vos) confirmed that the ‘Overall Arrangements for Possession Proceedings in England and Wales’ (Overall Arrangements) came to an end on 1 November 2021. There had been no public announcement made prior to their ending and the Overall Arrangements document itself was headed, “17 September 2020: Version 1.0”, implying that it was to be updated at some point. The document itself specified no end date.
The Master of the Rolls confirmed that the procedures to be followed from now on are “those set out in Rules and Practice Directions” and referred to the Overall Arrangements as ‘informal guidance’. The Overall Arrangements were neither a Civil Procedure Rule nor a Practice Direction; they also did not have any statutory footing.
As matters stand, the ‘interim period’ in paragraph 1.1 of Practice Direction 55C (PD 55C) ends on 30 November 2021. This means that the procedural requirements in PD55C will no longer apply to possession proceedings. A further pertinent change is the return of the obligation on the court to list a hearing within 8 weeks of issue in CPR 55.5(3)(b); currently that requirement it is disapplied by PD 55C paragraph 4.1(b).
The Master of the Rolls confirmed that listing policies are “a matter for Designated Civil Judges to decide in the light of local conditions”.
The current landscape is that several courts, who create their listings several weeks ahead, still have a number of upcoming Review Dates for which notices have already been sent to the parties. LPC Law have been building a picture of the listing practices which each court intends to follow henceforth. Since it is a matter for the Designated Civil Judges, LPC Law understands that the practices in different regions are varied and in some regions are still unconfirmed.
It is anticipated that until 30 November 2021, when courts will again be required to schedule a hearing within 8 weeks of the issue of the claim, there will continue to be variance across the jurisdiction in the approach adopted by individual courts. Some courts will continue to hold a Review Date prior to the Substantive Hearing of the claim, whereas others will immediately list a claim for a Substantive Hearing.