As part of the Wildlife & Countryside Link (Link) Legal Group, we are supporting Louise Venn in her court case which seeks to close a legal loophole that is preventing Aarhus cost caps being applied to statutory review challenges in England and Wales. This loophole leaves most national planning decisions immune from affordable challenge and, as a consequence, community groups, residents and local authorities have no way to prevent environmentally damaging developments, allowed by national inspectors even when these undermine local planning policies, because of the very high cost of court proceedings.

The case is explained more simply on Louise’s Crowd Justice platform where she is fundraising for the first stage of costs. Louise adds “No other country in Europe has centralised so many planning decisions, and then made the responsible national body immune from affordable challenge. The urgency is because I have just 9 days left to reach the minimum funding level (after which I get unlimited time to raise the rest). It is vital that as many people as possible read this in order to raise awareness of the issue as much as to raise funds.

The case has been accepted already by the government as an Aarhus case but will leapfrog straight to the Court of Appeal and perhaps higher. It has also been referred to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). If successful it could lead to a rebalancing of our planning system so that green space protections and local planning policies affecting our environment, heritage and living conditions can be more fairly defended. I am bringing the case as an individual, so at great personal risk. I was encouraged to do so by my legal team, having obtained a judgement in 2014 (Venn v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government (SSCLG)) that the UK was breaching Aarhus rules on this matter, and then having been affected by the delay in correcting the loophole. So I am being used as a sort of test case. I understand my 2014 judgement has already been used by environmental charities and those campaigning for third party rights of appeal in many individual cases and consultation responses, including by Link, so would value your help in alerting legal networks and environmental groups to the case, and asking them to support and share it, and help me get the word out.

It will make a huge difference if I can reach the initial £5K minimum funding level quickly as I’ll then be able to start focusing on the case so please support and publicise.”