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Planning and environmental law

Environmental law

Everyone should be able to stand up for the environment when they see it threatened. That's why Friends of the Earth supports communities to stand up, speak out and fight back.

Friends of the Earth defends people's right to:

  • Get hold of environmental information
  • Take part in the government's land-use planning system which is used to decide how land and the built environment are managed and changed
  • Use the law to protect the environment and public health.

We have decades of experience in environmental law and planning and our experts and lawyers support individuals and communities — such as those in Roseacre and Dudlestone — to take action for the environment.

And we tackle the national issues that affect our rights to protect the environment – and win.

Barbara spoke up against fracking

"If we don't stop fracking here in Lancashire, there's a danger it will spread like a rash across the country." – Barbara Richardson, Roseacre Awareness Group, Lancashire

We stood shoulder to shoulder with Barbara when Cuadrilla applied to drill for shale gas on her doorstep.

"My first thought was just, ‘How can they do this near where we live; how can they industrialise the area around our home?’”

Our planning experts helped Barbara object to the planning application. Lancashire’s County Councillors listened and voted to reject Cuadrilla’s proposal.

Yet, thanks to central government’s decision to override local government’s ruling – and continue to push for fracking – communities around the country are now at risk.

New cases like Barbara's are coming to us all the time.

Meet Barbara Richardson.

Dudleston stood together

"Our entire community united to win this fight to stop drilling from destroying our Dudleston." — Chris Hesketh, Frack Free Dudleston, Shropshire

When Chris Hesketh heard that IGas wanted to drill for Coal Bed Methane (CBM) in his home village of Dudleston, his initial reaction was, “Oh my god is this really happening?”

Up against a multimillion pound corporation that was working with Shropshire County Council, Chris didn’t know how he could fight back. But he couldn’t just stand by and let it happen.

We helped Chris build his case and inform his local community about CBM’s impacts, including 24/7 noise pollution, heavy traffic, and industrialisation.

“Once people knew more about CBM, they realised we had to fight back.”

It looked like the planning inspectorate was siding in favour of the drilling company. But our planning expert wrote directly to them arguing to get Dudleston’s written appeal upgraded to a full public Inquiry. Daunted by Dudleston’s anti-CBM community now having the chance to speak up, IGas backed out from their plans for the Shropshire area entirely.

A key court victory

Going to court is a costly business, which can make people think twice about bringing a legal challenge. In February 2017 the government removed a cap on the cost of going to court to challenge government environmental decisions. This effectively took away the voice of cash-strapped community groups — who couldn't risk spiralling costs if they lost.

Within the year we had successfully reversed this bad decision. Hundreds of Friends of the Earth supporters chipped in to help pay for our legal work. We won vital changes: a High Court judge decided that the new rules couldn't be used to raise the potential cost once the case had started.

This means that when people challenge the government about decisions that affect the environment – such as plans to build on an important nature site – the maximum cost liability for those bringing the case will have to be fixed early on.

Friends of the Earth Rights & Justice Centre

In case you or your community need support on planning or environmental law, our team of lawyers and planning experts have put together a Friends of the Earth guide to community rights, environment and planning law

This should help you navigate the planning and legal systems. It also contains details of further support we may be able to offer directly.