• In the case of Case c 201 02 R Wells v Secretary of State for transport local government, it was held that adverse repercussions on rights of third parties did not justify preventing an individual invoking the Directive provisions against a Member State.

Facts of the Case

  • W bought a house next to the site of a dormant quarry which was recognised as extremely sensitive environmentally.
  • The owners applied in 1991 for the old mining permission, granted in 1947, to be registered under the Planning and Compensation Act 1991.
  • The registration was granted with the condition for no development until an application to determine new planning conditions had been made to the Mineral Planning Authority (MPA).
  • The conditions imposed by the MPA were modified by the Secretary of State however neither looked at the possible necessity of an environmental impact assessment being made, under Council Directive 85/33.
  • W wanted the Secretary of State to rectify this by revoking or modifying the planning permission, which was declined.
  • W appealed and the High Court then referred questions on the Directive’s interpretation to the ECJ.

Issues in Case c 201 02 R Wells v Secretary of State for transport local government and the regions 2004 ECR i 723

  • Did the UK need to complete the assessment prior to consent being granted.

Held by European Court of Justice

  • The UK was required to conduct an environmental impact assessment for a decision to grant a permit for mining works under Directive 85/337

Judge Jann (President)

  • The old mining permission’s substance had been changed by the new consent, making this assessment necessary to conform with the Directive which also required that the assessment take place prior to consent being granted and as early as possible.
  • Article 2(1) of Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, read in conjunction with Article 4(2) thereof, is to be interpreted as meaning that, in the context of applying provisions such as section 22 of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 and Schedule 2 to that Act, the decisions adopted by the competent authorities, whose effect is to permit the resumption of mining operations, comprise, as a whole, a ” development consent” within the meaning of Article 1(2) of that directive, so that the competent authorities are obliged, where appropriate, to carry out an assessment of the environmental effects of such operations.
  • In a consent procedure comprising several stages, that assessment must, in principle, be carried out as soon as it is possible to identify and assess all the effects which the project may have on the environment.”