Court rejects three challenges to SSSI designation

Last Tuesday, the High Court heard an application for leave to bring proceedings against Natural England to challenge the decision to confirm Ely Pits SSSI.

The four grounds of challenge were that Natural England:
1) should have carried out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) as required by the SEA Directive before it confirmed the SSSI;
2) failed to provide information to the claimants, or the Board unlawfully failed to take account of relevant material because of non-disclosure by Natural England officers;
3) failed to take into account material considerations and/or misdirected itself in relation to certain evidence and in particular the presence of bitterns such that the evidence did not support the decision to confirm the site; and
4) failed to identify full boundaries for the SSSI and in so doing acted irrationally and disproportionately.

Grounds 2 – 4 were summarily dismissed. The judge ordered that ground 1 should await the outcome of an ongoing case elsewhere.