Finch v Surrey County Council: Supreme Court to hand down judgment in appeal concerning downstream emissions of fossil fuel projects

18 Jun 2024

Cornerstone Climate, Public Law and Judicial Review, Planning and Environment, Local Government

At 09:45 am on Thursday 20 June, the Supreme Court will hand down its judgment in R(Finch (on behalf of the Weald Action Group)) v Surrey County Council, Horse Hill Developments, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Friends of the Earth and Others (Intervening). The Court heard the appeal on 21-22 June 2023.

The significant case for environmental law and climate change turns on the correct interpretation of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017. The central issue is whether, when considering an application involving the commercial extraction of oil at the Horse Hill Well Site for production, the local planning authority should have required an assessment of the impact on the environment of ‘downstream’ greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the eventual use of the refined products of that oil.

Six members of Cornerstone Climate are instructed on this case:

  • Estelle Dehon KC and Ruchi Parekh act on behalf of Sarah Finch and the Weald Action Group, instructed by Rowan Smith and Carol Day of Leigh Day Law, with Marc Willers KC (Garden Court Chambers).
  • Harriet Townsend and Alex Williams act for Surrey County Council, instructed by Helen Forbes.
  • Nina Pindham acts for Friends of the Earth, one of the four parties intervening by way of written submissions, instructed by Katie de Kauwe and led by Paul Brown KC (Landmark Chambers).
  • David Welsh acts for Greenpeace UK, another intervener, instructed by Jennifer Jack of Harper Macleod LLP (Edinburgh) and led by Ruth Crawford KC (Axiom Advocates) and Richard Harwood KC (39 Essex Chambers)

There are two additional respondents: the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government and Horse Hill Developments Limited. The interveners also include the Office for Environmental Protection and West Cumbria Mining Ltd.