- Indirect effects—the scope of the environmental impact assessment (Finch v Surrey County Council)
- What are the practical implications of this case?
- What was the background?
- What did the court decide?
- Case details
Planning analysis: The Planning Court dismissed an application for judicial review which sought to challenge and to quash the defendant local planning authority’s decision to grant planning permission for the commercial extraction of crude oil. The claimant’s main argument was that the greenhouse gas emissions from combustion of products for which the oil is a raw material, notably vehicle and aeroplane fuel, must be subject to assessment within the environmental impact assessment (EIA) required before granting permission. Mr Justice Holgate has decisively held otherwise, focusing on the development project itself and holding that these ‘downstream’ emissions are not capable of being indirect effects of the development. The defendant’s EIA obligations did not require it to assess the impact of greenhouse gas emissions arising from the consumption of oil produced at the site, which might take place anywhere in the world. Other grounds, including a claim that the defendant had misinterpreted paragraph 183 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), or that it is not a lawful policy, were dependent upon success in the main ground, and failed. Written by Harriet Townsend and Dr Alex Williams, both of Cornerstone barristers, who acted for Surrey County Council (the defendant in these proceedings).
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