EA labeled ‘irresponsible’ after appealing landmark human rights ruling

Lawyers have accused the Environment Agency of 'wasting time and taxpayers money' after the regulator lodged an appeal against a High Court ruling, which found that it had failed to protect the life of a five-year-old child in its regulation of the Walleys Quarry landfill in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

During the original hearing in September, Dr Ian Sinha from Alder Hey hospital said that unless Mathew Richards, who was born with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, had access to clean air his lungs will not recover and continued exposure to Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) emissions from the landfill site will mean that Mathew's life expectancy will inevitably be shortened.”

The High Court ruled that the agency needed to do more to protect the local population as early as possible and that all measures must be “taken to reduce off-site odours as early as possible so that the WHO half hour guideline (5ppb) [five parts per billion] is met, addressing the undesirable current effects on people’s well-being and the symptoms they are experiencing”.

It also said that from January 2022 off-site H2S should be reduced to below the US Environmental Protection Agency reference concentration of 1ppb.

However, the EA was granted permission to appeal the ruling at the end of October.

In its grounds for appeal, the EA argues that the judge presiding on the case “erred in deciding that judicial intervention was either justified or appropriate”.

The EA argued that as the specialist statutory regulator, it was for itself and “not for the court, to evaluate and to determine the further action needed in order to restore gas emission levels at and in the locality of Walleys Quarry to acceptable levels and within an acceptable timescale”.

READ MORE: ‘Abandoned by the EA’: Residents living near notorious landfill set out case in the High Court

The EA also argued that it was not found to have breached or to be breaching “positive obligation and [that there was] therefore neither a justification nor a requirement for a remedy”. 

Matthew Richard’s solicitor Rebekah Carrier, of Hopkin Murray Beskine, told ENDS that it was “astonishing” that the EA “had made extensive submissions to the Court of Appeal without even mentioning the fact that the pollution from the site is shortening Mathew’s life”. 

“Rather than waste time and public money on an academic appeal the EA should be putting their efforts into making the area safe.”

Carrier said her legal team would “be drawing the Court of Appeal’s attention to the irresponsible failure of the EA to even mention the risk to Mathew’s health in its submissions to the court and asking the Court of Appeal to give the appeal the short shrift it deserves”. 

The Court of Appeal hearing is expected to take place before Christmas.