Lawyers acting on behalf of the charity described the Paper as ‘legally unworkable’ and found that it would be in breach of UK, European and International law.
If made law in its current form, the White Paper would remove the approval of so-called ‘Major Infrastructure Projects’ – which could include motorways, nuclear power stations and incinerators – from local authorities and transfer the final decision to a centralised ‘Infrastructure Planning Commission’ (IPC).
Friends of the Earth contest that decisions made by the IPC would only require Environmental Impact Assessments in ‘unusual cases’, which runs contrary to European Law. The group also suspects that the IPC would fail to operate in a ‘joined-up’ way, taking account of all aspects of government policy rather than the specific issue driving a project, such as traffic congestion.
Finally, Friends of the Earth argue that the European Convention of Human Rights allows anyone directly affected by a new development to have their objections heard. Under the proposed system, these rights would virtually disappear.
Friends of the Earth’s Planning Advisor, Naomi Luhde-Thompson, described the Planning White Paper as ‘ill thought-through’, ‘undemocratic’ and ‘likely to be illegal’.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist October 2007