United Kingdom
Contract, Permits, Wildlife, Environmental Impact Assessments, Land Use, Wetlands, Remedies, Civil, Standing, Property
The Administrative Court allowed a challenge to the grant of planning permission where there were breaches of the EIA Regulations but proceedings had not been brought ‘promptly’. The local planning authority granted planning permission for a flood defence wall. The local authority had concluded that an impact assessment was not required. The Agency commenced work on the scheme and spent approximately £130,000 in building the new defences. The claimant then sought to challenge the grant of planning permission one week short of the three month time limit for bringing a claim for judicial review as required under CPR r54.5. The Agency argued that it had been prejudiced by undue delay in making the claim. The judge said that the claim had not been brought promptly but there were two reasons why he would not refuse permission to bring judicial review proceedings. The first was the strength of the case—the grant of planning permission had been clearly ultra vires. The local authority had made a number of significant errors in determining that an EIA was not required. The second reason was that there had been a breach of the EIA Directive 85/337/EEC as amended (OJ L26/1), and EU law did not permit the bringing of proceedings to be subject to a time limit that depended on the exercise of judicial discretion. The limit had to be certain, otherwise the protection of rights derived from the Directive would not be effective. The judge was not persuaded that the ECJ Uniplex decision was satisfactory on the basis that the Court seemed to have considered that any possibility of the exercise of discretion by a judge contravened the principle of effectiveness. Nevertheless, he suggested that ‘serious consideration should be given to amending CPR 54.5 so as to impose a six week limit for all such challenges [to grants of planning permission, where promptness is important].