Chief Justice calls for clearer legislation on environmental considerations in planning

The Courts Services released the following statement:

Today at the launch of the Planning, Environmental and Local Government Bar Association, the Chief Justice the Hon Mr Justice Frank Clarke made a call for both our national and European legislators to enact clearer legislation in the environmental area, to avoid drawn out processes of litigation and major projects faltering as a result.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke said that without clearer legislation:

There will continue to be projects which, even though they may successfully clear all hurdles at the end of the day, may suffer by being held up for too long.

The Minister for Housing , the AG, and Dr Aine Ryall of UCC were also due to speak at the launch.


Conclusion of Chief Justice’s Speech:

“I acknowledge that we in the courts need to play our part in ensuring that our systems are as good as they can be so as to lead to timely disposition of environmental litigation. But as long as legislators both in Europe and in Leinster House produce unclear or unduly complex legislation there will undoubtedly be arguments which will go beyond the unstateable or the trivial and which will take a lot of effort to resolve. As long as that remains the case then projects are going to be held up. The solution lies at least as much in the hands of legislators in producing greater clarity as it does in the courts and, from my perspective, lies even more on the legislative side. This is a cry which is not based on a complaint that the policy behind any particular piece of legislation is wrong. That is not a judge’s business. It is a cry for clearer legislation which will make the resolution of environmental litigation easier and therefore quicker. And a final point. If we keep amending legislation, as we have been doing a lot in recent times, then we create constant and shifting uncertainty. It is almost inevitable that there will be some issues of interpretation with any new model. If we keep changing the model than we perpetuate the period during which the interpretation of the existing model has not settled down.

If there is a political demand for greater speed in the resolution of environmental cases then a significant part of the solution lies in the production of clear and well worked out legislation both at the European and National level. If that does not happen then there will continue to be cases which will not be clear cut and which, under the CILFIT jurisprudence of the CJEU, may have to be referred to the European Court and there will continue to be projects which, even though they may successfully clear all hurdles at the end of the day, may suffer by being held up for too long. The solution to that problem is not just one to be found within the planning decision makers or the Courts but, to quite a significant extent, in legislators”.

Chief Justice’s Full Speech.

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