Guide to community rights, environment and planning laws

Learn about the legal and planning system and find out how you can have your say on decisions about your local area.
  Published:  15 Sep 2020    |      2 minute read

Environmental law and the planning system can be powerful tools in the work to protect nature, clean air and water, and a better environment for everyone. Both are essential if we are to achieve a green and fair recovery and tackle the climate and ecological crises.

At Friends of the Earth we're committed to supporting people in their hopes for more sustainable development and campaigning for a legal and planning system that delivers exactly that. We believe it's vital that the system enables you to have your say in decisions that will affect you and the community where you live for years to come.

Here you'll find guidance on community rights, environment and planning law, written by our own expert team of lawyers and planners.

Current threats to the planning system

At present (September 2020), our government is consulting on planning reforms which, if taken forward, would drastically curtail your rights to have a say in whether planning proposals go ahead or not. These reforms are a threat to local democracy and our environment and we strongly encourage you to email your MP and ask them to defend our planning system.

Your right to know

Information is power. Freedom of Information (FOI) laws give everyone the opportunity to access information held by public authorities such as national and local government.

Understanding the planning system

You have a right to participate in development plans and controls in your local area. The planning system is in the public interest. It gives you your most powerful right to participate and be heard in decisions that affect the environment.

How to challenge decisions

Judicial Review is a form of court proceeding that allows you to ask the judge to review the validity of a public body's decisions. It's an important way of holding public authorities to account for their actions.

Community Rights and Justice Centre

Friends of the Earth's Rights and Justice Centre provides legal advice and representation to people who want to use the law to protect their communities and the environment.

We take on a small number of environmental public-interest cases on behalf of these groups. We try, in particular, to work with community groups that suffer the brunt of bad environmental decisions and cannot otherwise get legal advice.

We also try to take test cases that will help other communities in the future.

If you think your issue meets these criteria, please email our Legal team*.


Friends of the Earth's planning experts provide guidance to people who want to engage with the planning system to protect their communities and local environment from inappropriate and damaging developments.

We take on a very small number of environmental public-interest cases on behalf of local groups. We especially try to accommodate the needs of those community groups under threat of development and that cannot otherwise get planning consultancy advice.

Our support can range from providing advice on making objections, to responding to planning consultations, providing Inquiry advice and enabling better and effective understanding of, and engagement with, the planning system.

If you think your issue meets these criteria, please email our Planning team.*

*We take your privacy very seriously. We're committed to making sure we work in line with current data protection legislation and protecting your personal information online. See our privacy policy for more details.

Government want to push through harmful changes to the planning system