Indirect effects—the scope of the environmental impact assessment (Finch v Surrey County Council)
The Planning Court has dismissed an application for judicial review which sought to challenge and to quash the defendant local planning authority’s decision to grant planning permission for the commercial extraction of crude oil. The claimant’s main argument was that the greenhouse gas emissions from combustion of products for which the oil is a raw material, notably vehicle and aeroplane fuel, must be subject to assessment within the environmental impact assessment (EIA) required before granting permission. Mr Justice Holgate decisively held otherwise, focusing on the development project itself and holding that these ‘downstream’ emissions are not capable of being indirect effects of the development. The defendant’s EIA obligations did not require it to assess the impact of greenhouse gas emissions arising from the consumption of oil produced at the site, which might take place anywhere in the world. Other grounds, including a claim that the defendant had misinterpreted paragraph 183 NPPF, or that it is not a lawful policy, were dependent upon success in the main ground, and failed.