Court of Appeal decision will have important implications for the waste industry
Walker Morris, the national law firm, has achieved a major success in the Court of Appeal, which will have significant implications for the whole of the waste industry. In particular, it clarifies the interpretation of relevant legislation affecting the continued operation of existing landfill sites.
Walker Morris represented Anti-Waste Limited (Anti-Waste), a subsidiary of Waste Recycling Group, who had been refused PPC permits for two landfill sites in Norfolk. As a result of recent environmental legislation, in particular the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000 (PPC regulations) and the Landfill Regulations 2002, all landfill operators were required to apply to the Environment Agency for PPC permits in order to continue landfilling operations at existing sites.
The Environment Agency refused many such PPC applications based on their interpretation of the relevant legislation. The case subsequently went to the High Court where Anti-Waste challenged the basis upon which the Environment Agency had made their decisions. Anti-Waste were successful in the High Court in establishing that a landfill boundary could be defined in a three dimensional manner (commonly referred to as 'piggybacking'and the 'installation issue'). On a separate but related issue, ('the groundwater issue') the High Court held that a PPC permit could not be granted if it included existing landfilled cells where relevant discharges into groundwater were already occurring, unless these could be prevented.
Both parties appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal announced today that they uphold the High Court's decision on the 'installation issue' and also allow Anti-Waste's appeal on the 'groundwater issue' such that it is not necessary, as a matter of law, to prevent any existing discharges from former landfilled cells in order to include such cells within the PPC permit.
The case has significant repercussions for the landfill industry as finally there is clarification on the correct interpretation of the relevant legislation. This legislation is the cornerstone of waste legislation in the UK and the interpretation by the courts will affect the way in which the Environment Agency makes its decisions in the future.
Claire Brook, partner and Head of the Environment Group at Walker Morris, who led the team said:
“This is a significant, and long awaited decision, for the waste industry. It provides critical clarification of the relevant legislation and should mean that many decisions which have been held up can now be progressed. I believe the courts have taken a sensible and purposive approach in their interpretation of the legislation so as to avoid the unnecessary sterlisation of significant landfill reserves whilst still ensuring that, to the extent possible, the highest standards of landfill design and operation are adhered to going forward.”