UK in the clear over scrapyard impact assessments
The European Court of Justice has thrown out a case brought against the UK by the European Commission which had claimed that sanctioning the operations of scrapyards that had not had planning permission was dodging the need for environmental impact assessments.
In a third ruling of the ECJ concerning EIA, the ECJ dismissed the case of Commission v UK (Case C-98/04).
The Commission, having received a complaint regarding the practice within the UK, of issuing Lawful Development Certificates (LDCs) (here in respect of a scrap yard which had been operating without planning permission or a waste licence) which the Commission viewed as a means of circumventing the consent and EIA procedures under the EIA Directive, sought a declaration from the Court that by failing to comply with Articles 2(1) and 4 of the EIA Directive, the UK had failed to fulfil its obligations under that directive.
However, the action was held to be inadmissible as the proceedings before the Court only concerned "one aspect of a legal mechanism composed of two inseparable parts" and therefore did not set out the complaints coherently and precisely in order that the scope of the infringement of Community law complained of could be exactly appreciated.
While the complaints in the action concentrated on the issue of how LDCs permitted the EIA procedures to be by-passed, the Commission had not included complaints regarding the actual existence of time-limits for the taking of enforcement action against development which does not comply with the applicable rules, although the introduction of LDCs is by its very nature inseparable from the provisions laying down such rules of limitation.
In other words, the UK won on a technicality and it cannot be concluded from the case that LDCs are compatible with the EIA Directive.
The full text of the judgement is available here.