ELF, Standing up for Nature – case highlights from 2022

By Elf

As ever ELF has this year seen a wide spectrum of enquiries: judicial reviews, river and marine pollution, urban green space and local nature reserves, allotments targeted for development, mainly housing. Just an average week.

Emma Montlake outlines some matters that stand out for their variety.

An infill policy in Brent’s Local Plan, used to justify the development of a small but mature green space, well loved by the 30 flats around where a severely disabled young person lives supported by her fantastic mother, the one green space she has access to. Planning permission was granted for two affordable homes on the green space, trees to be felled. ELF looked into a judicial review and whilst there were arguable grounds, in the end the community decided they couldn’t take the financial risk. Heart-breaking. Reminds us that despite Aarhus Costs Protection, for many communities barriers to access to justice continue to exist. Thanks to barrister Peter Cruickshank for his advice.

Of course Woodcock Hill Village Green Borehamwood, Pat Strack and Clive Butchins (pictured above) and their crew who have for decades been putting their energies into the preservation of this unique green space and woods, Woodcock Hill. This year ELF assisted the community in a two-week Public Inquiry alongside barrister Joe Thomas at Landmark Chambers, on an application to de-register part of the much loved village green. Now a judicial review of the decision to permit the de-registration of the village green has been taken on by ELF members, Richard Buxton Solicitors.

The Friends of Becky Addy Wood and their on-going difficulties with Bradford upon Avon Town Council with whom they have a Memorandum of Understanding. A very difficult relationship ensued regarding Ash Die Back and how it be controlled in the protected wood. ELF has been supporting the friends through these difficulties. Annabel Walker gave some advice on the MOU. Mediation will take place.

Sheffield Swift Group and their request for assistance with a licence for their swift boxes, to be erected on a property, where development this autumn has resulted in known swift nest sites being destroyed. Out of this enquiry will come a guide on swifts and the law to be drafted, thanks to our partners at Reed Smith LLP.

A pre-action protocol letter sent to the Environment Agency on behalf of Bob Latimer, sewage campaigner extraordinaire in Whitburn in the North East, regarding an illegal connection delivered under a bespoke permit for which it was not permitted. With advice from Alex Shattock at Landmark Chambers.

The Maidstone District Councillor who wanted to introduce Rights of Nature into their local authority constitution. We brought in our own Tom Brenan and Paul Powlesland, barrister and founder of Lawyers for Nature, and had a very interesting discussion. The Council did not agree the motion but it marks a line in the sand, as grassroots communities continue to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Leaseholders in Eastbourne wishing to put solar panels on their roof and wanting to know how to negotiate with their freeholder. This matter was referred to our partners at Sussex University where they will have the benefit of property and environmental law expertise.

This is just a small snapshot of the wide variety of enquiries we have received in 2022, communities supported to protect their local nature and environment, whatever that means to them. ELF has supported all these communities this year and many many more, with the ever present generosity of our professional membership and our university clinics, we do a lot on a little. Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year.