Planning & Environment

The Commission on a UK Bill of Rights is presently consulting upon introducing an environmental right as one of our constitutional rights. Responses to the consultation are to be submitted by 30 September 2012.

An environmental right is rather different from the existing European Convention rights. Our rights to life, home, property, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and so on are about freedom from state interference in our own lives. An environmental right is at least partly about giving an individual a right to a general public benefit.

I’m torn.

On the one hand, I’m sceptical that rights expressed in very broad terms are truly effective against the most extreme abuses (remember Guantanamo still exists, despite the right to liberty of person enshrined in the US constitution) and concerned that they are an invitation to courts to step into the sphere of decisions that are properly for our elected democracy to take (see how the US Supreme Court has struck down legislation restricting electoral campaign contributions on the basis of its interference with freedom of expression).

On the other hand, as a fan of Dr Seuss, I would dearly love to go to court and say “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues”.

Anyway, I’m off to see the film.

Planning & Environment