In May 2013 An Taisce launched judicial review proceedings in London to challenge the legality of UK Secretary of State Ed Davey’s decision to grant permission to build and operate a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in the Bristol Channel, Somerset, 150 miles from the Irish coast. In papers issued in the High Court in London by lawyers Leigh Day, we challenged the legality of the decision by the UK Government with reference to (amongst other things) the EU's Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the UK’s own regulations on transboundary impacts and consultation.
Despite the nuclear power plant being nearer to the coast of Ireland than it is to Leeds, the UK decided not to consult with the Irish public about the decision before it granted consent in 2013. The first time many Irish people learned about the nuclear power plant proposal was when the decision was announced. Their views were not therefore taken into consideration as part of the UK government’s decision and assessment process.
Consultation with the public in Ireland would have allowed the public to contribute to the decision making process and would have allowed the UK to properly and fully consider the impacts and effects of the plant across boundaries.
There is a contrasting approach on consultation adopted by other countries including Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, which have contacted neighbouring countries in relation to their plans to develop nuclear power facilities.
Rosa Curling from Leigh Day who is representing An Taisce, said:
“The UK Government decided to grant permission to build and operate a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point without consulting the Irish public or taking into account significant potential risks of the power plant across national boundaries.
The failure to consult or consider these transboundary impacts renders the decision to grant permission for the nuclear power plant unlawful and we will be seeking to challenge it in the High Court to give the Irish public a voice.”
James Nix, Policy Director for An Taisce said:
“This case is not about interfering with the right of the UK authorities to make their own decisions, nor about being pro or anti nuclear. It is about ensuring that the rights and interests of the Irish public and their concern for their environment are not excluded from those decisions, and that the Irish public is properly consulted in accordance with the law on a project of this nature.
Ireland’s agriculture, food, fishing and tourism - which are our essential indigenous industries - are critically dependent on the quality of our environment, as is the health of our people. This is therefore a matter of considerable importance and concern for Irish people, and for our interest in our environment.
An Taisce views compliance with environmental law as a fundamental building block in our mission to protect Ireland’s built and natural environment. We seek the assistance of the UK courts in determining the correctness of this decision, which is important not only in respect of this nuclear power plant decision, but also the manner in which other decisions in the pipeline will be treated in the future, including the nuclear plant proposed for Anglesey, which is even closer to Ireland and in an area which is prone to earthquakes.”
High Court judgment - December 2013
The High Court in London handed down its judgment in December 2013, finding against An Taisce's arguments. You can read the judgment here.
UN Committee letter of March 2014
On 14 March 2014, a UN Committee wrote to the UK government indicating that based on the Committee's preliminary consideration of Hinkley Point, there was a "profound suspicion of non-compliance" with transboundary consultation obligations under international law (the Espoo Convention). You can find the UN Committee's letter here.
Appeal to the Court of Appeal
We are seeking leave to appeal the High Court's decision to the Court of Appeal in London. We will keep you posted!