An Taisce challenges plans for Somerset nuclear plant

Heritage body takes London High Court case saying consultation on project not fully complete

An Taisce policy director James Nix said the challenge was not about interfering with the right of the UK authorities to make their own decisions, nor about being pro or anti-nuclear. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien.

An Taisce policy director James Nix said the challenge was not about interfering with the right of the UK authorities to make their own decisions, nor about being pro or anti-nuclear. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien.

 

A decision to give permission for a new nuclear power station on the English coast facing Ireland should be quashed, the High Court in London has heard.

An Taisce has brought a challenge over the legality of the decision in March by the British secretary of state for energy and climate change to grant development consent for the project at Hinkley Point in Somerset — around 220km from Ireland.

Its lawyers say there was a failure to undertake “transboundary consultation” with the Irish people beforehand as required by the European Commission’s Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

The British government says such a consultation was not necessary as it had already dealt with the potentially very severe impact which nuclear accidents - although agreed to be unlikely - could have, were they to happen.

That screening decision process, in April 2012, took into account matters such as the technical information in the environmental statement, prior assessment of the likelihood of accidents and the role of the Office of Nuclear Regulation in licensing.

Transboundary consultation was only required in relation to significant environmental effects of which there was a “real risk” or a “serious possibility”, it argued, and not those in relation to which there was only a bare possibility..

Today, at the start of a two-day hearing in London, David Wolfe QC, for An Taisce, told Mrs Justice Patterson that the screening decision and failure to consult were unlawful and the development consent was therefore granted in breach of the EIA Directive.

James Nix, policy director for An Taisce, which was founded in 1948, has said: “This case is not about interfering with the right of the UK authorities to make their own decisions, nor about being pro or anti-nuclear.

“It is about ensuring that the rights and interests of the Irish public and their concern for their environment are not excluded from those decisions, and that the Irish public is properly consulted in accordance with the law on a project of this nature.

“Ireland’s agriculture, food, fishing and tourism — which are our essential indigenous industries — are critically dependent on the quality of our environment, as is the health of our people.”

PA