Pollution in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Alphacell Ltd v Woodward
    • House of Lords
    • 03 May 1972

    The subsection evidently contemplates two things— causing, which must involve some active operation or chain of operations involving as the result the pollution of the stream; knowingly permitting, which involves a failure to prevent the pollution, which failure, however, must be accompanied by knowledge.

    The whole complex operation which might lead to this result was an operation deliberately conducted by the Appellants and I fail to see how a defect in one stage of it, even if we must assume that this happened without their negligence, can enable them to say they did not cause the pollution. In my opinion, complication of this case by infusion of the concept of mens rea, and its exceptions, is unnecessary and undesirable.

    The vital question is whether the Appellants caused that pollution within the meaning of section 2 (1) of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act 1951. The nature of causation has been discussed by many eminent philosophers and also by a number of learned judges in the past. I consider, however, that what or who has caused a certain event to occur is essentially a practical question of fact which can best be answered by ordinary commonsense rather than abstract metaphysical theory.

    They certainly did not intend to cause pollution but they intended to do the acts which caused it. What they did was something different in kind from the passive storing of effluent which could not discharge into the river save by an act of God or, as in Impress (Worcester) Ltd. v. Rees [1971] All E.R. 357 by the active intervention of a stranger, the risk of which could not reasonably have been foreseen.

  • King v Brandywine Reinsurance Company (UK) Ltd (formerly Cigna Re Company (UK) Ltd) [QBD (Comm)]
    • Queen's Bench Division (Commercial Court)
    • 10 May 2004

    Mr Kettel had many years experience in the energy industry, including 16 years at Atlantic Richfield and 9 years at Chevron, in both corporations responsible exclusively for insurance matters. He had for 18 years been a member of the Oil Insurance Group consisting of about 15 insurance managers from the major energy companies, including Exxon, who regularly met to discuss insurance problems. He was also a board member of ITIA – the International Tanker Insurance Association, from 1975 to 1994.

  • Hopkins Developments Ltd v First Secretary of State and North Wiltshire DC
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 10 Nov 2006

    They establish the proposition that the impact of air emissions from a proposed development is capable of being a material planning consideration but in considering that issue the planning authority is entitled to take into account the pollution control regime.

  • Cornwall Waste Forum St Dennis Branch v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1st Appellant) Sita Cornwall Ltd (2nd Appellant)
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 29 Mar 2012

    He observed correctly that the control of such emissions in this case was a matter for the Environment Agency. Although the overall planning judgement was one for the Secretary of State, he was entitled to be guided on this issue by the agreed position of the two specialist agencies. That was entirely consistent with the familiar approach approved in cases such as Gateshead. Mr Wolfe was right not to put this point at the forefront of his case.

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