We offer free advice on environmental law. Since the launch of our service in June 2021, we’ve received 127 enquiries. We get enquiries from individuals, community groups and NGOs based all across Scotland. The topics we’ve advised include:
- The planning process
- Access to information and FOI appeals
- Environmental crime
- River pollution
- Issues with commercial forestry
- Noise, dust and odour nuisances
- How to challenge decisions of public bodies relating to the environment
- How to go to court over the environment
- Proposals for housing, fish farm and incinerator developments
- The protection of nature conservation areas and biodiversity
- The designation of bathing waters.
Advice service in the news
A couple of our advice cases have received press coverage:
- We helped bring to light the long-term illegal operation of a pumping station run by Scottish Water near Musselburgh in East Lothian.
- We helped challenge the Highland Council’s work on a parking development in Glenmore Forest – the Council has halted any further work for now.
Equal rights of appeal in the planning system
In September we submitted a ‘communication’ (essentially a complaint) to the ACCC along with Planning Democracy, RSPB Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland. Our complaint is that the inequality in planning appeal rights in Scotland is not fair.
Members of the public and NGOs have limited appeal rights where a development is given planning permission in Scotland. Their only option is to go to court, which is often prohibitively expensive and the courts do not review the merits of planning decisions. Developers on the other hand, enjoy appeal rights which enable them to have the full merits of planning decisions reviewed affordably.
In a recent decision of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, they decided that the absence of equal rights of appeal in Northern Irish planning legislation was not compliant with the Aarhus Convention requirement for ‘fair’ procedures. This is similar to the position in Scotland.
We are currently waiting on the ACCC making an initial decision on whether our communication has passed their initial checks. See our press release for more information.
Representation to Environmental Standards Scotland
In August, we made a ‘representation’ to Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) (Scotland’s new environmental watchdog) about the cost of going to court, and the longstanding problems on access to justice.
We are hoping that ESS will investigate our complaint and put pressure on the Scottish Government to take the steps that are needed to remove the barriers to going to court in environmental justice cases.
Our representation is listed on ESS’ website. ESS is currently carrying out some pre-investigation work before they make a decision on what do about our representation.
Contact our advice service
We want to increase awareness and confidence in exercising our environmental rights. We offer free advice to individuals, community groups and organisations on environmental and related planning law.
If you are seeking specific advice on an environmental issue, please contact us.
Ben Christman, in-house solicitor, Nov 2022