Undergraduate Module Descriptor

LAW1016C: A Legal Foundation for Environmental Protection

This module descriptor refers to the 2019/0 academic year.

Module Content

Syllabus Plan

The module begins by considering the development of environmental concern over the last 60 years and how the law has responded.  The module looks at the scope of environmental law and its relevance to your studies. The module will then build on this introduction and will include the following topics:-


Part 1 -The challenges we face in Environmental Law – reflecting on our history. 

   Focuses on:

  • Evolution and origins of environmental law including responsive changes from developmental leaps in science and technology.
  • 1960’s developments in environmental protection becoming an objective in its own right.
  • Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – how they created landmarks in changing policy.
  • Balancing of the needs of both the environment and individuals.
  • Indirect threats to the environment from the laws themselves.
  • Practicalities and difficulties associated with complying with environmental law and the ramifications for those who fail to comply.


Part 2 - Attitudes and the environment

  Focuses on:

  • Resolving attitudes of individuals and businesses towards environmental protection.
  • Effects of shifts in public opinion, lobbying groups and environmental protest on legislation.
  • Links between public concern and law and generally how people influence regulation.
  • Balances between law and regulation, that legislative measures conflict each other and how policy makers seek to reconcile these competing values.
  • The practice of principles and objectives such as - sustainable development, the precautionary approach and the ‘polluter pays’.
  • Concept of ‘risk’ in environmental decision-making, the probability of events/development causing harm to the environment or to human health and different perceptions of risk and the role of science and the media.


Part 3 - The Planning System

   Focuses on:

  • Introduction to town and country planning laws including environmental impacts from development (water/air pollution) and impacts on natural habitats.
  • How the UK planning system is not an environmental protection regime but can control development so to minimize environmental impact.
  • ‘The environment’ and ‘sustainable development’ are key in planning permission decisions and how conditions can be imposed for environmental reasons.
  • How the law seeks to reconcile the competing interests of progress in industry and economy, aesthetic appeal for landowners and the protection of the environment.


Part 4 - Environmental Assessment, Permitting and IPPC

   Focuses on:

  • Legal mechanisms of Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment, allowing decision makers to gather the information they require to establish the environmental impact of projects and development.
  • Importance of advance assessment on harmful activities and the duties that are imposed at individual to international level, prepare environmental impact reports/statements.
  • Environmental permitting, and integrated pollution prevention and control. 
  • International standards on environmental management - set by the International Organization for Standardization. Primarily ISO14001 - core set of standards that businesses need to meet to establish an environmental management system.


Part 5 - Legal mechanics for the non-lawyer

   Focuses on:

  • Production of primary UK legislation and International legislation (in particular EC law) and how these legislative measures work together.
  • Role the courts have to play in both translating legislation and developing laws
  • Critical look at the practice of statutes and the difficulties courts have in applying legislation.
  • How the judiciary tends to take a non-interventionist approach when applying the law on a national level and how greater understanding of purpose behind environmental legislative measures has increased confidence at EU level in interpreting legislation practically.


Part 6 - The Administration (builds on Part 3)

    Focuses on:

  • Relevant departments of government and the role of the Royal Commission,
  • Environment Agency/Natural England - Advisory bodies to the government on certain matters. Also the non-government agencies role – Greenpeace/The National Trust etc.
  • The practical role of local authorities on issues like the collection and disposal of waste, town and country planning and contaminated land. 

The place the courts have amongst the vast array of legal infrastructure.

Learning and Teaching

This table provides an overview of how your hours of study for this module are allocated:

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

...and this table provides a more detailed breakdown of the hours allocated to various study activities:

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 24Interactive lectures: Core content will be delivered during interactive lectures where guidance will be given for further reading
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 6Problem solving workshops: Workshops will consolidate the reading and give students a chance to practice their skills by application of the principles to problem scenarios
Guided Independent Study120Independent Study

Online Resources

This module has online resources available via ELE (the Exeter Learning Environment).