Climate activists considering legal action against Norfolk road projects

Norwich wakes up to another day of mist and pollution.
Photo by Simon Finlay.

Climate activists are planning a legal fight against Norfolk road projects. Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Climate activists in Norfolk are considering taking legal action against a series of Norfolk infrastructure projects.

Representatives from the Green Party, Stop the Wensum Link, XR, and others met on Tuesday evening to discuss plans for fighting local projects in an effort to reduce the nation's carbon output.

The schemes suggested for legal action were the Norwich Western Link (NWL), upgrades to the A47, the Greater Norwich Local Plan, and the local transport plan.

Dr Andrew Boswell, a consultant from Climate Emergency Planning and Policy, argued the projects were being 'greenwashed' and inadequately assessed for carbon output. 

Andrew Boswell

Andrew Boswell - Credit: Archant

Potential legal routes included a lack of "genuine environmental assessment" of carbon appraisal, no accounting for the combined emission across multiple projects and the lack of carbon footprinting and accounting.

A message to attendees ahead of the meeting said: "Such unfit-for-purpose environmental assessment, and failure to follow duties introduced with Climate Change Act (but not within it), have not been previously challenged in the courts, but clear litigation options exist.

"At least four separate, potential legal cases are identified and investigated, which if successful, would have a substantive impact on the local authority ambitions, slowing down progress on the schemes and possibly preventing some of them. 

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"Success in these cases would set precedents for other areas in the UK faced with such an overwhelming onslaught of environmentally damaging development."

However, Dr Boswell urged caution, saying they had to pick the right battles and make sure they had a strong case.

"The risk if the case fails is that all those precedents wouldn't happen and the case could be strengthened for the status quo, that's always the risk of litigation," he said.

Jamie Obsorn

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor. - Credit: Jamie Osborn

Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn, who chaired the meeting, said litigation could also help persuade local councillors to back the cause.

"One of the things that's not clear to many of the backbench Conservative councillors is the planning process and the risks this road is opening them up to," he said.

"That could be one of the main arguments that could persuade them, the financial and legal risk they open themselves up to by going down this road."

No firm plans were put in place at the meeting but litigation is expected to go on until 2023.

Funding is expected to come from crowdfunding, with one fighting the NWL having raised almost £9,000.