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Challenge To Essex Waste Station Rejected

Lindblom J has rejected a challenge by Mr and Mrs Hockley to a waste transfer station ("WTS") in Great Dunmow, Essex.

The Claimants challenged Essex County Council's ("ECC") decision that no Environmental Impact Assessment was required for the WTS. They argued that:

-the standard of review of an authority's decisions on a screening opinion is not as high as perversity.

-in reaching a decision on whether the development was likely to have significant effects ECC should have considered the project cumulatively with impacts from future planned housing schemes in the area, junction improvement works that might come forwards, and the possibility that the remainder of the site might come forwards as a civil amenity site.

The judge held that:

-the Court of Appeal had already confirmed that screening involves a fact finding exercise and questions of likelihood and significance of effects were questions of judgment for the authority subject to review on normal public law principles.

-there was an insuperable difficulty in the Claimants' submissions on cumulative effect in that there was no evidence before the Court of a potentially significant cumulative effect attributable at least in part to the proposed WTS. It was not enough to simply assert that other developments would have a significant effect (in this case through increased traffic) in the absence of clear evidence the screened development would add to that effect. It was telling that the points about cumulative impact and project splitting were not taken at screening stage or when the application was being considered.

-the judge reiterated that "there has to be a sensible limit to what a screening decision-maker is expected to do....Conjecture about future development on other sites that might or might not act with the development in question to produce indirect, secondary or cumulative effects is not in the screening decision-maker's remit. I do not think that the precautionary approach extends to that."

The Claimants are now seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Paul Shadarevian and Clare Parry of Cornerstone Barristers represented Essex County Council.