DEFRA consultation on amending the CPR to establish environmental review – Law Society response

The proposals

The Environment Bill, currently progressing through parliament, seeks to establish ‘environmental review’ in the High Court.

Environmental review differs from judicial review primarily in that it can only be brought by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) – a new statutory body created by the bill.

Environmental review is not intended to replace the right of individuals to bring cases in judicial review.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) consulted on:

  • amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPRs) to establish environmental review
  • whether these should mirror some aspects of judicial review procedures – particularly the rules on interested parties, interveners and costs

The consultation follows DEFRA's draft policy statement on environmental principles.

Our view

We want to make sure that those with a legitimate interest in environmental matters:

  • are able to access the justice system
  • will be treated no less fairly than interveners in judicial review cases

The environmental review procedure should be as closely aligned as possible to the processes and protections afforded by the existing judicial review mechanism.

Changes to the CPRs in relation to environmental review should not amount to a barrier to people accessing the justice system.

In particular, the involvement of third parties in environmental disputes must not be inadvertently discouraged given the far-reaching effects such cases can have on communities.

We acknowledge the need for some limits to be put in place given the potential ease with which people can express an interest in environmental matters, but we take the view that any limits imposed should mirror those in judicial review, so as not to create any additional barriers to environmental justice.

It’s important to make sure that interested parties are not disincentivised from participating in the process for fear of being met with disproportionate adverse costs.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 6 September.

We await the government’s response and are continuing to brief parliament on the Environment Bill.

Read the consultation on the GOV.UK website

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