Further to our earlier blog concerning the impact of the new costs protection rules in Aarhus Convention claims, it has now been reported that a judicial review brought by three charities, namely, ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB, which challenges the new costs regime, has been fast-tracked by the High Court.
The environmental costs protection regime was introduced in 2013 and provides for the parties’ costs of proceedings to be capped. A claimant’s liability for the defendant’s costs is capped at £5,000.00 or £10,000 depending on whether the claimant is an individual or an organisation. The Defendant’s liability for the claimant’s costs is capped at £35,000.
Although the costs caps remain in place, the new rules introduced on 28th February 2017 (CPR 45.41 to 45.45) provide the court with the discretion to vary the costs caps in specified circumstances. The new costs rules were aimed at reducing the number of unmeritorious claims but the charities’ case is that the new rules introduce a degree of uncertainty over prospective claimants’ liability for costs that could prevent many genuine cases from ever being brought.
The fast-tracking of the Judicial Review means the hearing could take place within the next six months.