Gordon Wignall: Environment Agency Suspension Notice Quashed in High Court

Tue, 04 Sep 2012

A suspension notice under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 issued by the Environment Agency suspending the operation of a permit has been quashed by the High Court. This followed the grant of an interim injunction earlier in the year.
 
In a judgment handed down on Friday (August 31), Judge Pelling QC sitting in the High Court Queen's Bench Division (Manchester) overturned a Suspension Notice served in February 2012 to the international giant metal reclamation outfit EMR regarding its Parkhall Works scrap yard in Stoke on Trent. The notice in question related to levels of noise which had prompted 1,103 complaints within 12 months.
 
Mr Gordon Wignall, a specialist on waste law from No5 Chambers, was EMR’s barrister in the case.
 
This is thought to be the first time that the relevant enforcement provisions under either the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 or their precursor the 2007 Regulations have come under High Court scrutiny. The dracomian remedy of the Suspension Notice can only be utilised when there is a "risk of serious pollution". It suspends the operation of an environmental permit to the extent specified in the Notice.
 
Speaking to the trade website Letsrecycle.com Mr Wignall said the case had implications for other permitted waste sites and would force the Environment Agency in future to lay out exactly what operators needed to do to get suspension notices withdrawn without fear that they may be investing in vain. He explained: “The judgment means that in future the Environment Agency will have to make those decisions and not leave them up to operators. That is important because in the past they have said you are the operator, you make the money so you find out what needs to be done. This judgment means they have to give details and be precise."
 
The case was of particular interest because the Environment Agency did not challenge the grant of an interim injunction applied for as soon as the Suspension Notice was served, and it did not seek to have the proceedings struck out because there was an alternative remedy by way of a statutory appeal to the planning inspectorate. 
 

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