The EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (85/337/EEC), which applies to the environmental effects of public and private projects likely to have significant effects on the environment, says that all projects listed in its Annex II must be “screened” by the appropriate authority to decide if an Environmental Impact Assessment is required. Demolition is not listed in Annex II and the Town and Country Planning (Demolition – Description of Buildings) Direction 1995 was issued on the basis that demolition is not subject to the Directive unless carried out as part of a project falling within Annex I or Annex II to the Directive. The Demolition Direction effectively excludes much, if not most, demolition from the Directive by providing that the demolition of certain descriptions of building would not be “development” for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. If the proposed demolition is not “development”, there is no need to seek planning permission and the EIA Directive does not apply.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that demolition of buildings can be a “project” falling within Annex II of the Directive and that the relevant paragraph of the 1995 Direction is unlawful. Demolition could therefore now be subject both to the need for planning permission and to the EIA procedure, with all the consequent time and cost involved.

Save Britain’s Heritage), R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2011] EWCA Civ 334