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Planning and Environmental Law: A False Dichotomy While the field of Environmental Law has in recent years found

huge followership and stimulated numerous public debates especially in the areas of oil spillage and climate change; town planning has seen a decline in prominence. To this end, it appears as if less attention is being paid to town planning issues. The emerging scenario has lead to a reliance on statutory instruments in the form of controls and regulations. Unfortunately, the current global economic climate has not contributed favourably to the static state of an already over legislated town planning system. In turn, the feverish discontent among economists and politicians alike prompted a swift change in their modus operandi. There seems to be a glaring insistence or in more subtle terms, a market choice preference to stimulate economic growth at all cost. Predictably, environmental concerns tend to take the back seat to economic growth. Eventually this unsustainable approach may well achieve some form of growth, but with far reaching environmental impacts. On the other hand, planning systems predominantly consist of a diverse array of control based regulations with a primary focus on the built environment. Unfortunately little prominence has been given to environmental protection concerns. It should be noted that environmental protection goes beyond the conservation of historical sites, habitats or implementing a waste management system. Within this context therefore, planning has routinely been regarded as a controversial anomaly. On the other hand, planning law provides a framework for both public and private legal remedies to address environmental protection challenges within the general development procedure (John, M. et al 2010). In recent times the term environmental exhaustion tends to strike at the heart of a fragile environment, burdened with the scars of development. In this regard, critics of this view readily point to numerous signed environmental treaties and conventions, describing the situation as being largely of cosmetic political significance. More so, at the core of environmental law is the rudimentary objective of protecting the environment through the appropriation of statutory instruments. This highlights the principle incentive of improving environmental performance in every aspect of human endeavour and development. Mean while, quite rightly, statutory instruments remain the adopted tool for dealing with most environmental cases; there remains a broad middle ground of seeming uncertainty between town planning legislation and environmental law directives. This is because the multiplicity of environmental regulations and directives, has not translated into any significant environmental management milestones at any level of engagement. Hence the underlying challenge instigated by the interaction between planning and environmental law focuses on balancing competing needs within the context of environmental protection. This scenario puts forward a lingering temptation to draw similarities between town planning and environmental law as opposite ends of the same spectrum. Alternatively this could be seen as a facsimile of an overlapping shadow of environmental protection and management. This portrays a true reflection of a false dichotomy of mutually exclusive parts. In order to properly ascertain the significance of planning and environmental law, emphasis shall be placed on environmental impact assessment within the scope of regional growth anomalies.
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Generally the Environmental Statement articulates an analysis of the potential trade off between the gains and resultant environmental impacts of intended developments; which includes the avoidance of pollution or emissions. This mandatory requirement poses an expressive intent to actively regulate land use with far reaching implications on environmental management. A comparison of the elements of planning law within the locus of environmental impact assessments, illustrated a direct reference to environmental considerations. With an underlying influence on economic growth, planning law highlighted an indirect link to environmental protection. This intrinsic connection to the consideration of environmental measures does mirror certain aspects of environmental law i.e. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and EIA Directive 85/337/EEC. With the combination of these aspects of planning and environmental law; there is reasonable expectation on the operation of environmental assessments to enhance active participation in the planning process (John, M. et al 2010). A notable limitation of Environmental Impact Assessment strategies can be derived from the incurred cost of conducting a detailed risk assessment for all projects. Thus projects with minimal environmental consequences often tend to be excluded from this requirement due to the financial implications of conducting an environmental impact assessment. While it may be open to discussion, planning law remains a particularly sensitive area, which is susceptible to political pressures and ideological shifts. Hence some environmentalists are quick to point out that the focus and role of planning law negates any perceived promotion of environmental protection. In spite of these drawbacks, undoubtedly Environmental Impact Assessment is advantageously situated to integrate environmental protection into the planning system (John, M. et al 2010). Although the foundations of such assertions remain contentious, it is a given that planning and environmental law both have considerable influence on environmental protection at a notable scale. Planning legislations are indeed pivotal in certain areas of environmental law and arguably of prominence especially when pollution controls are barely functional (Stuart, B. et al 2008). This is especially true of large scale development projects which by their nature have significant impact on the environment. As long as environmental considerations are not weighed on the scale of additional development cost, environmental protection will be given prominence. Clearly, there remains cautious optimism on the potential wealth of possibilities to protect the environment from the negative impacts of new developments. By embedding purposeful environmental protection legislation in planning law, the divisive juxtaposition with environmental law will be addressed. It bears mention that the adoption of a proactive approach reiterates the call of the Royal Commission on Environmental Protection to give greater priority to the role of planning law in environmental protection (John, M. et al 2010). Also the major consolidation of planning law does show an inherent convergence on sustainable development across the broad spectrum of environmental management. Finally with the launch of the new strategy for sustainable development by the British government, it is eminently guaranteed that the middle ground between planning and environmental law will remain vague.
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