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The ‘Heathrow’ Case: Polycentricity, Legislation, and the Standard of Review

Joanna Bell & Elizabeth Fisher

Abstract

The recent Court of Appeal decision in the ‘Heathrow’ case, Plan B Earth v Secretary of State for Transport is an illustration of the challenges of reviewing polycentric and expert decision‐making. The issues raised in the case concerning the Planning Act 2008 are an illustration of a court’s expository role in such contexts. The Court tackled directly a series of interpretive questions concerning the Planning Act 2008’s obligations regarding the consideration of climate change. The Habitats and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive issues raised in the appeal, in contrast, were presented with the question of the intensity of review foregrounded in legal argument. The Court therefore sought to articulate the ‘standard of review’ and to apply it to the government’s decisions. This way of framing the issue unfortunately sidelined the courts’ expository role in relation to intepreting the Habitats and SEA Directives, leaving key provisions under‐analysed.

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Published September 2020
Frequency Bi-Monthly
Volume 83
Issue 5
Print ISSN 0026-7961
Online ISSN 1468-2230