(P159) Cinema legal row leaves green legacy - Kentish Times 11 May 2006, by Patrick Clift.

A CONTROVERSIAL scheme to site a multiplex cinema in Crystal Palace Park was finally settled last week after European judges ruled that government planners broke EU environmental law, writes Patrick Clift.

In a landmark Judgment that could require major changes yo UK planning law, the European Court of Justice ruled last Thursday that the government violated European law in force since 1985 by failing to require developers of major projects to conduct environmental impact assessments.

Bromley council, despite pleas by some councillors gave final planning permission for a massive cinema multiplex in Crystal Palace Park in 1999, but without an environmental assessment of its impact.

The project was later abandoned in 2001, but the Crystal Palace Campaign took its opposition to the European Court.

Planning barrister and former CPC Chairman Philip Kolvin said

"I am proud that the Crystal Palace Campaign left a three-fold legacy; a saved park, a process of dialogue leading to a sustainable future for the park and now an environmentally sounder improvement to the planning system in the UK that will be of benefit to communities the length and breadth of the nation.

"As a result of the European Court's judgment, UK planning law will need to be amended to provide for environmental assessment of reserved matters applications".

The relevant European Directive of 1985, as amended in 1997, is binding in UK law and meant

"that projects likely to have significant effects on the environment, must be made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects before (multi-stage) development consent is given".

The UK government could now be fined if it fails to ensure promptly that planners comply directly with the European Directive. Current CPC chairman Ray Sacks said:

"It is enormously to Philip Kolvin's credit that this case has at long last been brought to a successful conclusion. l think the outcome speaks volumes for the Blair government's attitude towards the environment."

A spokesman for the newly created Department for Communities and Local Government, the successor to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said:

"We have a very good record of compliance with the Directive because we take the importance of environmental assessments seriously. We are looking at the detail of the judgement in order to assess any wider implications."

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20/5/06 Last Updated 20/5/06