UK's environmental assessment regime ruled out of court by EU




Roger Milne


Planning Portal


Barker - Crystal Palace

In what appears to be a landmark decision, the government has fallen foul of the European Union over the way the planning regime handles the legal requirement for environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has just ruled that the government was wrong to stipulate that there is only a need to carry out EIA at the outline application stage.

Instead, the ECJ has issued a judgment which has insisted that the UK EIA regulations are contrary to the EU environmental assessment directive

"Projects likely to have significant effects on the environment must be made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects before multi-stage development consent is given," the panel of half a dozen judges ruled.

The issue of whether the EU directive was correctly transposed into UK planning law has been a saga stretching back several years following concern over two redevelopment schemes in London, one at Crystal Palace and the other at the White City.

In both cases the relevant local planning authorities, the London Boroughs of Bromley and Hammersmith and Fulham, came under fire for not requiring environmental assessments for the scheme at the detailed planning permission stage when "reserved matters" were decided.

Although the European Commission has successfully prosecuted the UK government over the issue of when assessments should be carried out, it failed to persuade the ECJ over its concerns for the two specific developments.

The Crystal Palace project included proposals for a cinema complex with galleries and restaurants of around 52,000 square metres and car parking.

The White City scheme involved 58, 000 square metres of retail and leisure uses, car-parking for 4,500 vehicles and a new road junction.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: "We have a very good record of compliance with the Directive because we take the importance of environmental assessments seriously.

"We are looking at the detail of the judgement in order to assess any wider implications."