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

The Friends of the Earth Rights and Justice Centre provides legal and planning briefings in order to help people who want to use the law to protect their communities and the environment.

Friends of the Earth also seeks to take "test cases" that will help communities in the future. For example, we challenged Heathrow expansion on climate change and sustainable development grounds in support of our West London local group network and to protect our shared environment.

If you hear of an individual or community group that needs legal advice, you can try contacting the Environmental Law Foundation's advice and referral service at