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The case concerned the application of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Uncultivated Land and Semi-Natural Areas) (England) Regulations 2001 and whether the application of farmyard manure to an area of land constituted a “project” for the use of uncultivated land or semi-natural areas, and therefore fell within the requirement to obtain a screening decision under the EIA Regulations.


Following the conviction of the defendant at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on 10 June 2004 on four charges of carrying out projects without a screening decision or the grant of consent by the Secretary of State, contrary to regulation 19 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Uncultivated Land and Semi-Natural Areas) (England) Regulations 2001, an appeal was raised before the Divisional Court.

The issues before the court were whether an increase in the productiveness of a given area, or an intensification of the agricultural purposes to which the land was put came within the definition of a ‘project’ and whether the defendant’s project amounted to an intervention for intensive agricultural purposes.


The question for the opinion of the High Court was therefore what was meant by the phrase “intensive agricultural purposes” contained within the Regulations.


With no English or ECJ case-law on the meaning of “intensive agricultural purposes”, the Court had to interpret the regulations in a way which best promoted the wide scope and broad purpose of the directive on which they were based, in this case the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (Directive 85/337/EEC).


While the EIA has a wide scope and broad purpose, the Court felt that when drafted it was not intended to “catch a project that was concerned only to bring land back to a normal level of agricultural productivity”.


The appeal was therefore allowed and as a consequence the four previous convictions would be quashed.


Butterworths

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