Environmental Law

Our environmental law barristers help clients pursue legal action to protect public health, communities and habitats.

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Top Ranked Chambers UK Bar 2019
The Legal 500 UK Top Tier Set 2019

Garden Court Chambers has been at the forefront of groundbreaking climate change litigation. Our environmental law barristers work with grassroots campaigners, high-profile charities and NGOs.

We have a long-standing commitment to sustainable development and safeguarding our environment. 

In conjunction with our top ranked civil liberties and criminal defence barristers, we also have a proud track record of defending the rights of environmental protestors. In the UK and abroad, we regularly provide legal advice on a wide range of environmental issues.

Areas of Expertise

  • Climate change
  • Nature conservation
  • Energy supply
  • Sustainable development
  • Fossil fuel and mineral extraction, including fracking
  • Air quality marine ecology and conservation
  • EU environmental law
  • Environmental impact assessments
  • Habitats
  • Open spaces
  • Surfers’ rights

Our barristers have represented clients in statutory and private nuisance actions, complex multi-party actions, and public inquiries. We often represent individuals and groups seeking to pursue judicial review of environmental decisions taken by public bodies.

Notable Cases

 

CAN Europe intervention in the People’s Climate Case (2018) 
Garden Court barristers are representing CAN (Climate Action Network) Europe on its application to the European General Court to intervene in the People’s Climate Case. This is a case in which families and youth have challenged the EU in order to protect their fundamental rights from the insufficiency of the EU’s 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target. See coverage in The Independent.

Representing the Mayor of Malton in legal action against planned government changes to how fracking applications are handled (2018) 
The Government issued a written ministerial statement requiring local authorities to ‘recognise’ the statutory definition of fracking set out in the Infrastructure Act 2015. Applying that definition, which relates to the volume of fluid used in the process, rather than the nature of the process itself, could lead to fracking operations (which use slightly less fluid than the statutory threshold) being granted planning permission in areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks, such as the North York Moors. See BBC coverage.

Work on Barbuda international airport halted by interim injunction (2018) 
The injunction was granted after the case was lodged outlining concerns about environmental damage that the Barbudans who brought the case, John Mussington and Jacklyn Frank, believe the project will cause. Department of Environment documents obtained by Mussington and Frank’s legal team revealed that the authorities had been warned about ecological as well as archaeological risks. See coverage in The Guardian.  

Anti-fracking campaigner pursues Supreme Court challenge in bid to overturn Government decision to approve fracking in Lancashire (2018)
Representing anti-fracking campaigner Gayzer Frackman. This is the first case in which a court has had to consider whether planning permission can be granted for shale gas exploration wells without the need to take account of the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from shale gas production at the same wells. See coverage in The Guardian.

Greenpeace India
Garden Court has been engaged in six cases in the Indian High Courts to defend Greenpeace India’s right to freedom of expression.  We have been successful in each case.

Oil and gas drilling licences in Norway
In Norway, we have worked on a lawsuit challenging the government’s grant of oil and gas licenses to 13 companies planning to drill in the dangerous and ecologically fragile Arctic.

KK & ors v AML (England & Wales High Court)
Garden Court Chambers represented 142 villagers who live near a large iron ore mine in West Africa. The claimants sought damages for personal injury, death and other damage allegedly caused by the actions and negligence of African Minerals Ltd, the British company that owns the mine.

Coal expansion in Turkey
The Turkish government planned over 60 new coal fired power stations, claiming that “energy security” makes it unnecessary to conduct environmental impact assessments, as required by international environmental law.  We worked on an amicus brief in support of a constitutional law challenge to this extreme threat to the health of people in Turkey and neighbouring states.

Legal Response Initiative
We have worked with the Legal Response Initiative to advise developing nations and charities on the UN Climate Change negotiations and the enforcement of the resulting Paris Agreement. The Legal Response Initiative provides legal support to poor and climate-vulnerable developing countries – on public international law issues encompassing environmental law, treaty law and human rights law.

Contact team

defending environmental protestors

Garden Court is renowned as one of the leading chambers in the UK specialising in civil liberties, human rights and criminal defence. We are ranked as a leading chambers in both the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for our expertise in these areas of law. 

Our barristers have considerable experience defending environmental protesters in criminal proceedings, including: 

  • Greenpeace activists
  • Anti-fracking protestors
  • Anti-GM crop protesters
  • The ‘Heathrow 13’
  • G20 Climate Camp protesters 

We have pursued legal action in the High Court on human rights grounds against energy companies, such as Ineos and UK Oil & Gas, who seek draconian injunctions to restrict the legitimate right to protest. 

Our barristers have authored the key text on protest rights, The Protest Handbook.

 

international environmental law

Significant international work has included cases concerning land rights, corporate responsibility, oil exploration and drilling. 

Recent significant cases include legal action taken against the Government of Antigua & Barbuda on behalf of Barbudans affected by and opposed to the destruction of ancient forests, rare wildlife and sensitive ecosystems associated with the construction of an international airport on Barbuda. The legal action resulted in an interim injunction granted by the High Court of Antigua & Barbuda, which halted all construction on the airport. 

Through the Global Legal Action Network, our barristers are pursuing a high profile legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights against the governments of Europe over their failure to cut green house gas emissions. 

Our barrister, Richard Harvey, is currently a consultant to Greenpeace International, assisting them with carrying out their environmental mission around the world.

 

funding your case

Given some of the difficulties in obtaining legal aid for these cases, we do our best to work with other funding arrangements, including ‘no win, no fee’ agreements where appropriate, fixed fees for some matters and crowd funding.

In some cases legal action to protect the environment is protected by the Aarhus Convention, which limits the amount a claimant would have to pay a defendant if the claim is unsuccessful. The limit is £5,000 for individual claimants and £10,000 for group claimants. The Aarhus regime also imposes a cap of £35,000 to limit the amount a successful claimant can claim from a public body.

 

The Team

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Latest News

Oil and gas companies' use of injunctions "a threat to our civil liberties"

Parliamentarians, lawyers and campaigners joined forces on 16 January to warn about the growing threat to civil liberties from injunctions against campaigners who protest against fracking, oil and gas companies.

17 January 2019

High Court rules that Mineral Planning Authorities are not bound by statutory definition of fracking and can apply their own wider definitions

Marc Willers QC represented Councillor Paul Andrews, Mayor of Malton, North Yorkshire. He led his colleague Tim Baldwin, and was instructed by Ricardo Gama of Town Legal LLP.

6 November 2018

Garden Court's Marc Willers QC and David Neale respond to questions posed by APPG on the Impact of Shale Gas

The evidence, delivered today, was drafted by Marc Willers QC and David Neale.

23 October 2018

CAN Europe is intervening in the People’s Climate Case

Marc Willers QC of the Garden Court Chambers Environmental and Planning Law Team is the leading barrister representing CAN Europe. Garden Court's Richard Reynolds, Paul Clark and Julia Lowis worked with Marc on the application to intervene. 

20 September 2018

Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal to hear new arguments in Barbudans’ legal action against “unlawful” development of international airport

Leslie Thomas QC, Marc Willers QC, Thalia Maragh and Tihomir Mak are instructed in this case. 

11 September 2018

The Mayor of Malton takes legal action against planned government changes to how fracking applications are handled

Marc Willers QC has been instructed to represent Paul Andrews, the Mayor of Malton in North Yorkshire, in the legal challenge.

23 August 2018

Work on Barbuda international airport halted by interim injunction

Leslie Thomas QC, Marc Willers QC, Thalia Maragh and Tihomir Mak of Garden Court Chambers are instructed on this case.

3 August 2018

Barbudans take legal action against Government of Antigua and Barbuda for unlawful development of an international airport

Legal action seeks injunction to immediately halt development; reveals government continued construction despite knowledge of major ecological, archaeological risks and damage to island

2 August 2018

Six environmental campaigners appear in High Court this week to challenge broad injunction sought by UK Oil and Gas (UKOG)

Garden Court's Stephanie Harrison QC, Tim Baldwin, Stephen Simblet and Owen Greenhall are instructed in the case by Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors. 

4 July 2018

Barbudans call on Commonwealth leaders to address human rights injustices, failing democracy in wake of Hurricane Irma

Leslie Thomas QC, Marc Willers QC, Thalia Maragh and Tihomir Mak are representing Barbudans in this case.

17 April 2018

'We believe areas of community open space in London need to be protected from development'

Marc Willers QC and Justine Compton were instructed by Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law for the appellant. 

27 March 2018

High Court quashes decision to grant planning permission for a holiday park in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The claimant was represented by Marc Willers QC and Richard Reynolds of Garden Court Chambers’ Environmental Team.

16 February 2018

Anti-fracking campaigner pursues Supreme Court challenge in bid to overturn Government decision to approve fracking in Lancashire

Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers is seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

12 January 2018

Barbudans file injunction to expose unlawful introduction of land act changes

Leslie Thomas QC, Marc Willers QC, Thalia Maragh and Tihomir Mak are acting for the group of Barbudans.

20 December 2017

Appeal to Save Warren Farm as open space for the Community

Marc Willers QC and Justine Compton are appealing the ruling to the Court of Appeal in December.

27 November 2017

Greenpeace Anti-Fracking Activists Not Guilty

All 10 activists were represented by Owen Greenhall of the Garden Court Crime Team.

7 November 2017

Children affected by climate change are crowdfunding to sue European governments

The Global Legal Action Network is preparing to bring a case to the ECHR to sue 47 European governments for inaction.

27 September 2017

Anti-fracking campaigner takes challenge to Court of Appeal seeking to overturn Government decision to approve fracking in Lancashire

Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers is representing environmental campaigner, Gayzer Frackman

29 August 2017

Campaigner loses High Court planning challenge against fracking in Lancashire

Mr Gayzer Frackman was represented by Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers.

12 April 2017

Marc Willers QC represents campaigners in High Court challenge against Lancashire fracking plans

Environmental and planning law barrister, Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers represents local campaigner, Gayzer Frackman.

21 March 2017

High Court challenge launched over Lancashire fracking site on climate change grounds

Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers is representing the claimant, anti-fracking campaigner Gayzer Frackman, in the High Court challenge.

18 January 2017

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