Friends of the Earth begins legal action to 'modify' NPPF

Campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has launched a legal challenge against the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), arguing that the government failed to properly scrutinise the environmental impact of policies set out in the document.

Wind energy: FoE says new NPPF sets 'harsh rules' preventing installation
Wind energy: FoE says new NPPF sets 'harsh rules' preventing installation

In a statement today, FoE said the government "failed to carry out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA)" on the new NPPF "putting our climate and environment at risk".

The statement said that through High Court action, "Friends of the Earth wants to force the government to undertake an SEA, consult the public and modify the framework based on those findings".

Among its concerns, FoE said the NPPF includes "harsh rules for the development of wind energy that could block new schemes from coming forward".

It also said that "by requiring planning authorities to plan positively for shale [gas] extraction, the approach gives the go-ahead for fracking and will make it virtually impossible for councils to refuse schemes they and their communities do not want or consider right for their area".

It added that the new NPPF's policies "failed to ban coal and have kept the door open for future coal developments".

"Whilst the ‘great weight’ of the benefits of coal to the economy is no longer an overriding factor for coal development, a new coal mine could still get the go ahead if ‘it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts’," the statement said.

Overall, the statement said, the government failed to carry out an SEA of the NPPF "leaving the public in the dark over the major environmental impacts of the new changes, and whether less damaging alternatives have been considered and discarded (or considered at all)".

Kate Gordon, Friends of the Earth senior planner, said: "The new planning rulebook was a chance to put an end to dirty coal, boost renewable power and energy efficiency, and put climate risks front and centre – to create a more sustainable environment for us all to enjoy.

"Instead, the government has further threatened our already warming climate - and yet no strategic environmental assessment was ever made of the plans."

Will Rundle, Friends of the Earth head of legal, added: "The government pays lip service to leaving the environment in a better state for future generations but in reality does the opposite. Publishing a new national framework for development in England without any assessment of its major environmental implications begs the question of what happened to good governance.

"We’re taking legal action over the complete failure by the government to environmentally assess the major impacts of this new planning framework, which we think is unlawful and shows contempt for people and our planet."

A spokeswoman for FoE confirmed that the group is currently seeking permission for a judicial review of the NPPF at the High Court. 

A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "Environmental protection is at the heart of our new planning rulebook, setting clear expectations for future development. 

"While this legal case is on-going, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

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