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Important ECJ judgments on EIA and outline planning permission

DATE: 04 May 2006

The ECJ delivered judgments on EIA and outline permissions in 2 infractions (Commission v. UK, Case C-508/03) and the reference in Barker (Case C-290/03) from the House of Lords.

 

Dismissing infraction proceedings by the Commission on the basis of the facts and the Commission’s failure to prove its complaints regarding the individual decisions (White City & Crystal Palace) but taking an approach to reserved matters which followed Wells (in both the infractions and the Barker reference)the ECJ held:

 

[From Commission v. UK]

 

“102 Therefore, the two decisions provided for by the rules at issue in the present case, namely outline planning permission and the decision approving reserved matters, must be considered to constitute, as a whole, a (multi-stage) 'development consent' within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Directive 85/337, as amended.

 

103 In those circumstances, it is clear from Article 2(1) of Directive 85/337, as amended, that projects likely to have significant effects on the environment, as referred to in Article 4 of the directive read in conjunction with Annexes I and II thereto, must be made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects before (multi-stage) development consent is given (see, to that effect, Case C-201/02 Wells [2004] ECR I-723, paragraph 42).

 

104 In that regard, the Court stated in Wells, at paragraph 52, that where national law provides for a consent procedure comprising more than one stage, one involving a principal decision and the other involving an implementing decision which cannot extend beyond the parameters set by the principal decision, the effects which a project may have on the environment must be identified and assessed at the time of the procedure relating to the principal decision. It is only if those effects are not identifiable until the time of the procedure relating to the implementing decision that the assessment should be carried out in the course of that procedure.

 

105 In the present case, the rules at issue provide that an environmental impact assessment in respect of a project may be carried out only at the initial outline planning permission stage, and not at the later reserved matters stage.

 

106 Those rules are therefore contrary to Articles 2(1) and 4(2) of Directive 85/337, as amended. The United Kingdom has thus failed to fulfil its obligation to transpose those provisions into domestic law.”

 

[From Barker]

 

“48. If the national court therefore concludes that the procedure laid down by the rules at issue in the main proceedings is a consent procedure comprising more than one stage, one involving a principal decision and the other involving an implementing decision which cannot extend beyond the parameters set by the principal decision, it follows that the competent authority is, in some circumstances, obliged to carry out an environmental impact assessment in respect of a project even after the grant of outline planning permission, when the reserved matters are subsequently approved (see, in this regard, Commission v United Kingdom, paragraphs 103 to 106). This assessment must be of a comprehensive nature, so as to relate to all the aspects of the project which have not yet been assessed or which require a fresh assessment.”

 

The reference in Barker will now fall for further consideration by the House of Lords.

 

David Elvin QC and James Maurici represented the UK Government.

 

A copy of Case C-508/03 can be downloaded below. A link is provided to the judgment in C-290/03.