Communities Given Access to Free Environmental Legal Advice

Environmental Law Foundation Launch Advice Clinics with the Help Of Irwin Mitchell


Members of the public are to be given a chance to access legal advice from specialist planning and environment lawyers at new ‘hubs’ thanks to a new innovative link-up between the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) and universities with the assistance of leading law firm Irwin Mitchell.

ELF has launched a new national network of ELF clinics, in partnership with universities, for the provision of pro bono environmental legal advice for communities.

Starting with a single advice and referral centre in London, ELF has now established a network of centres each based within the law departments at UK universities.

A new ELF helpline number, 0330 123 0169, has also been launched to field all enquiries with the call-handing service based at Irwin Mitchell.

The law firm will be on hand to field calls and make sure they are passed to the right ELF clinic who will in turn offer free advice on key environmental issues including planning and development as well as “nuisance” cases.

The legal advice clinics will run alongside ELF’s network of specialist lawyers and consultants and will include:

The University of Law, London (formerly the College of Law), University of Manchester and Nottingham Trent University.

Other universities are expected to be added to the list as the network develops.

ELF’s Vice-Chair, Michael Taite, stated: “The new network will enable us to provide more help, more efficiently and more locally, to disadvantaged communities and individuals facing environmental threats and opportunities. It will also free our Head Office to focus on analysis of national trends, outreach and policy issues.”

Justin Neal from the Planning and Environment team at Irwin Mitchell who helped negotiate and organise the call centre service from the firm, said:

ELF has for a long time been at the forefront of major environmental cases including challenges to fail to register Town and Village Greens, campaigns to prevent motor vehicles being used off-road in the beautiful Cambrian mountains and fighting a development on the Aberdeenshire coast by Donald Trump.

In Lewis v Redcar – ELF worked with campaigners who instructed Irwin Mitchell in a case which went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court unanimously decided that Redcar and Cleveland Council should register Coatham Common as a town and village green (TVG), overturning the decisions of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal and revising the law in this area.

ELF also provided assistance to a group who were concerned with the impact of proposals for motorised vehicles in the Cambrian Mountains – which has a network of environmentally sensitive and protected sites. After ELF wrote to the Council to point out that there should be a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) carried out, the proposals were withdrawn.

In a very high profile battle in Scotland, residents in Foveran Aberdeenshire, sought ELF’s assistance to oppose real-estate tycoon Donald Trump’s proposals to develop 1,400 acres of beautiful Aberdeenshire coastline, known as Menies Estate.

After initial contact by local residents, the case was referred to an ELF adviser who was able to lend support. The residents were successful at a public inquiry. Although planning approval was subsequently granted by the Scottish National Executive with the aim to help economic development, the residents were able to make their voice heard effectively because of the help they received from ELF and its panel lawyers.