House of Lords Hands Down Judgment in Edwards v Environment Agency

16 Apr 2008

On Wednesday 16 April, the House of Lords handed down judgment in the case of
Edwards v Environment Agency [2008] UKHL 22.

The appeal arose out of an application by a concerned local resident to quash a permit issued on 12 August 2003 by the Environment Agency (“the Agency”) to Rugby Ltd for the operation of the Rugby cement works. The chief grounds were that the Agency did not disclose enough information about the environmental impact of the plant to satisfy its statutory and common law duties of public consultation.

The case involved significant issues of EC environmental law, particularly the correct interpretation and application of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directives. It also raised important matters of principle relating to a public body’s common law obligation to consult on “internal” documents.

Their Lordships held unanimously that the Agency was not obliged to disclose to the public reports which it had commissioned internally from its Air Quality Modelling Assessment Unit (AQMAU) on emissions of particulates (dust) from the plant either under the EIA regime or under the IPPC regime. They also held that, even if there had been a breach of the common law duty of fairness by the Agency in failing to disclose those reports, the Judge below had been entitled to exercise his discretion not to grant relief on the grounds inter alia that “it would be pointless to quash the permit simply to enable the public to be consulted on out-of-date data”.

The appeal was therefore dismissed.

Kassie Smith acted for the Respondents, the Environment Agency, the First Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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