The High Court has dismissed a judicial review challenge to a planning permission granted for 370 houses on a site about 30 metres from a European designated site (Stodmarsh Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation) near Canterbury.

The claim concerned the ‘overlapping environmental effects’ between this site and an adjacent proposed development of 250 homes promoted by Redrow.  Coincidentally the planning applications for the two sites had been submitted within a month of each other.  The Claimant argued that the developments should have been assessed as a single project for the purposes of the EIA Directive.

In a Judgment handed down on Wednesday, Lang J confirmed that a local planning authority is under no general duty to consider whether two projects with potentially overlapping environmental effects should be considered jointly (as opposed to by consideration of cumulative effects).  The local planning authority is required to identify the project to be considered and only has to make an assessment of whether two sites should be considered as a single project if there is information before it to trigger such an assessment.

In this case the Judge found that the two developments were stand-alone projects with no interdependence.  The Court again made clear that the principles set out in EIA screening cases cannot simply be read across to cases like this, which concern the scope of assessment (see Bowen-West v. Secretary of State CLG [2013] EWCA 321, at para 32).

The case is a useful consideration and application of the principles relating to potential project splitting in EIA cases.

It is also required reading for its approach to the procedural rules on amendments to judicial review claims.  New grounds are required to be set out in a formal application to amend, accompanied by a draft amended claim.  The Court refused permission to the Claimant to rely on new grounds set out only in a ‘Reply’ and skeleton argument.

Jenny Wigley represented the successful developer, HNC Developments.

A copy of the judgment may be viewed here.

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