Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

February 21st, 2022 by James Goudie KC

Was the Council in R (Finch) v Surrey County Council (2022) EWCA Civ 187 required to include in an EIA for a project of crude oil extraction for commercial purposes, an assessment of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the eventual use of the refined products of that oil as fuel?  No, say the majority of the Court of Appeal. Likely environmental effects do not extend beyond environmental effects, both direct and indirect, of the proposed development itself, to include anything which might follow as a consequence of planning permission being granted and implemented for that development.

To require assessment, impacts on the environment must be effects of the proposed development, that is having a sufficiently close connection with the proposed development to be at least indirect effects of it. The essential question for the planning authority is whether there is, in fact, a sufficient causal connection between the project under consideration and a particular impact on the environment for that impact to constitute one of the indirect significant effects of the proposed development.  The fact that certain environmental impacts are inevitable may be relevant to the question whether there are such effects, and in some cases the inevitability of those effects might make it more likely that they are effects of the development, but it does not compel the conclusion that they are, in fact, such effects.

The Council was entitled to decide that, in addition to the assessment of greenhouse gases generated on the application site, a further assessment was not required covering the impacts of the ultimate consumption of refined products of the crude oil extracted by the proposed development.


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