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UK Court of Appeal upholds planning approval for Drax gas project

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The UK Court of Appeal has upheld the planning approval for Drax to build a major gas power plant in North Yorkshire.

ClientEarth, an environmental charity, first took the UK Government to court over the decision to approve the plant in November 2019, arguing that the Secretary of State’s approval was ‘unlawful’, based on ‘misunderstanding of energy planning policies and a misapplication of the planning act’.

As this challenge was unsuccessful, ClientEarth took the case to the Court of Appeal in November. Despite the ruling upholding planning approval on 21 January, the charity believes the judgment sets an ‘important and much-improved legal precedent’ for assessing major energy projects on their climate impact.

Drax’s proposed gas power station could create up to 3.6 GW of new gas generation capacity and up to 200 MW of battery storage. The company said it would enhance Drax Power Station’s flexible and responsive capability, and make Yorkshire home to large-scale battery technology.

If developed, these plans could increase Drax’s ability to provide flexible generation and support services the UK’s electricity system will need as coal and other large power stations are shut down. ClientEarth has argued that the decision to approve planning us not in line with the nation's climate goals, but that the ruling set an ‘important precedent’ that major UK energy projects can be rejected on climate grounds.

Sam Hunter Jones, ClientEarth lawyer, said: “Following this judgement, decision-makers must now stop hiding behind planning policy to justify business-as-usual approvals of highly polluting projects. They need to engage with reality and take ownership of decisions that could make or break whether we achieve our long-term climate targets.”