Cornerstone Climate is a cross-disciplinary practice group for environment law, climate change litigation and advice drawing on our award-winning planning, environment, property, commercial, regulatory and public law teams. Our barristers are frequently involved in major climate cases, both in court and at public inquiry.
Cornerstone Barristers has a strong track record of involvement in climate cases and of giving strategic, carbon-literate advice, including to all levels of government. The climate and biodiversity crises have triggered legislative, regulatory and market responses that affect clients across planning, environment, property, commercial and public law. Awareness of, and potentially imaginative solutions to, climate and biodiversity risks are required.
Our aim is to fortify and expand the services we provide clients on climate and biodiversity matters, as well as to act as a hub bringing professionals together from across the construction, development, public policy and commercial worlds to share best practice and insight, hosting regular in person and online events.
In our hub below you’ll be able to learn about our expertise, access useful climate resources and sign up for future Cornerstone Climate events.
- Legal challenges
Cornerstone Barristers has some of the most highly regarded barristers involved in environmental legal challenges, frequently instructed in high profile cases at the Supreme Court, High Court and Court of Appeal.
Recent highlights of our work include:
- Finch v Surrey County Council (Supreme Court case). A hugely significant case for environmental law and climate change concerning the question of whether, when considering an application for the commercial extraction of oil, Surrey County Council should have required an assessment of the emissions likely to be caused by the use of products manufactured from the extracted crude, and their impact on the climate.
- The government’s Net Zero Strategy. In this legal challenge, the High Court held that the UK Government did not comply with requirements under the Climate Change Act 2008 to produce policies and proposals that will enable net zero to be met by 2050, and to report on those policies in a transparent way to Parliament when it produced its flagship Net Zero Strategy in advance of COP26.
- Balcombe hydrocarbon exploration. Tom Cosgrove KC and Ben Du Feu acted for the Secretary of State in dismissing a statutory challenge to the grant of planning permission for exploration and appraisal works with an extended well test for hydrocarbons at an existing well site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe.
- Challenge to UK government’s oil and gas expansion plans. This challenge by a leading UK climate change non-governmental organisation, Uplift, to the government’s UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment, which concluded that a policy allowing new seaward oil and gas licensing would not have significant environmental impacts.
- Whitehaven coal mine. The statutory review of the controversial decision by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to approve the first new coal mine in the UK for over 30 years, purportedly the world’s first ‘Net Zero’ coal mine.
- Solar farm appeals belatedly contended as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). A significant challenge brought by two planning authorities against the Planning Inspector’s decision that it had jurisdiction to determine appeals in respect of solar farms under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The authorities unsuccessfully contended that the solar farm development was NSIP, which needed to be determined under the Planning Act 2008.
- HS2 tunnelling in the Chilterns. A judicial review claim brought by local residents in the Chilterns challenging the Environment Agency’s decision to grant consent for a twin tunnel for the purposes of the HS2 project. Planning permission was refused in November 2021.
- Southampton Airport expansion. A judicial review challenge to a decision made by Eastleigh Borough Council to approve a runway extension at Southampton Airport.
- National and local policy
Cornerstone Barristers regularly advises national and local bodies on various areas of climate-related policy, utilising our outstanding sector knowledge and subject area expertise.
We can advise clients on subjects including:
- Developing and implementing net zero planning policy
- Planning policies addressing demolition
- EU Emissions Trading Scheme
- Nutrient neutrality legislation
- Pollution reduction schemes
- Coastal erosion
- Embodied carbon
- Carbon capture
- Biodiversity net gain
- Habitats and species protection
- Environmental impact assessments
Members of Cornerstone Climate frequently advise developers, local authorities and resident groups on infrastructure projects, often acting in major inquiries and on Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP).
Recently this has included:
- Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station, representing parties in a judicial review challenge to grant planning permission for the station in Suffolk.
- Sunnica Energy Farm, a case for development of the UK’s largest solar farm on over 1,000 hectares of farmland in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
- HS2, promoting the Phase 2B Hybrid Bill for the UK’s largest infrastructure project.
- East Anglia GREEN Grid Reinforcement, acting for a local authority regarding the connection of new offshore wind generation to the National Grid.
- Gullwing Bridge, advising on the carbon implications of the now consented bridge in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
- Great Yarmouth Third River Crossing, advising on the carbon implications, both embodied and in operation, of the now consented bridge in Suffolk.
- Renewable energy
Members of Chambers have been involved in a wide variety of renewable energy developments acting for both developers and local authorities. Our barristers have experience of both NSIPs and section 78 appeals concerning renewable energy proposals.
As well as acting in the six-month long examination into the UK’s largest proposed solar farm (Sunnica) and for the three largest offshore windfarms in the world (Norfolk Hornsea 3, Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas), Cornerstone has been involved in dozens of other renewable energy projects, including:
- Steeraway Solar Farm, Telford
- Mallard Pass Solar Farm, Lincolnshire/Rutland
- Crays Hall Solar Farm, Essex
- Cotmoor Solar Farm, Lincolnshire/Nottingham
- Minchens Lane Solar Farm, Bramley
- Higher Denzell Wind Farm, Cornwall
- East Anglia One North Offshore Wind Farm, Suffolk
- East Anglia Two Offshore Wind Farm, Suffolk
- North Falls Offshore Wind Farm, Suffolk
- Five Estuaries Offshore Wind Farm, Suffolk
Our barristers have considerable experience of appearing before major inquiries within the aviation sector. Recent highlights include:
- Representing the community group challenging the ‘Jet Zero Strategy’, the Government’s plan to achieve net zero in the aviation industry.
- Representing Plymouth City Council in a judicial review sought by an oil company for planning permission for a private heliport on land near a site identified as presenting a hazard subject to the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015.
- Participating in a judicial review challenge of planning permission granted for the UK’s first space port in Caithness, Scotland, based on asserted errors in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Habitats Regulations assessments, including in particular, the impact of visitors on the habitats of protected birds.
- Representing the main community group opposing the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport, on grounds of climate change and public health.
- Appearing at the Court of Appeal challenge to the planned expansion of Bristol Airport.