R (on the application of Bateman) (Claimant) v South Cambridgeshire District Council (Defendant) & Camgrain Storage Ltd (Interested Party)
Bateman applied for judicial review of the local authority's decision to grant planning permission to Camgrain Storage Ltd. Camgrain had sought a screening opinion from the local authority under Regulation 5(1) of the EIA. The local authority's screening opinion stated that the proposed development was unlikely to have a significant effect on the environment and that an environmental impact assessment would not be necessary.
Bateman challenged the local authority's decision on the basis that the opinion was illogical, irrational and did not contain sufficient reasoning to comply with the Regulations and Directive 85/337.
The Court of Appeal followed the position of the European Court of Justice in R (Mellor) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2010). This case explains that a screening opinion does not need to contain a detailed assessment of factors relevant to the granting of planning permission. However, it should contain sufficient reasoning to allow those interested in the decision to understand the reasons for the decision and to see that the authority has determined in accordance with the rules laid down by national law. This means showing that proper consideration has been given to the possible environmental effects of the development.
In the present instance the reasons given by the planning officer were not sufficiently clear as to comply with Mellor so the grant of planning permission had to be quashed on the ground of a lack of compliance with the Regulations and Directive. The Court made it clear that there was nothing to suggest that the council's decision was not carefully considered. This highlights the importance of complying with technical legislative requirements where EIA is concerned.