Planning & Environment

A useful reminder from the English Court of Appeal that potential refusal of planning permission on environmental impact grounds does not necessarily mean that EIA is required (the Loader case).

It might seem an unlikely EIA case – a previously developed site of 0.7ha, with no Green Belt/ AONB/SSSI/ protected species issues – and a development of 41 sheltered apartments, car parking, landscape and access, and a new outdoor bowls green, indoor rink, club facilities and car parking. It’s a reminder that the EIA rules are very broad-brush and open to interpretation/ dispute.

The difficulty is that the screening decision is normally taken at an early stage, often pre-application, when there will be limited information available (although in this case the Council had refused planning permission (in 2006!), and the screening decision was taken as part of the appeal process, so more information was available about the development than normal).

The Court rejected the contention that EIA was required unless the decision-maker can exclude on the basis of objective evidence any real possibility of the effects being significant. The Court was not prepared to go that far, instead leaving it for the judgment of the decision-maker in the individual circumstances of each development.

Neil Collar