Costs limit application for individual in ‘Save the Northern Meadows’ group granted

26th May 2022


In R. (on the application of Lewis) v Welsh Ministers, following a costs order against the claimant, the claimant applied for a costs limit in accordance with the Aarhus Convention 2001 and the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 1998/3132.

The defendant Welsh Ministers had approved the interested party’s outline case to build a new cancer centre on a site in Cardiff. The claimant was a member of ‘Save the Northern Meadows’, a group of citizens who wanted to protect the site from development.

The claimant had issued proceedings in her own name and sought to challenge the decision on three grounds, including a breach of the defendant’s duty to seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity

and related matters under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. She was refused permission to seek judicial review and the court ordered that she should pay the defendant’s and interested party’s costs. She argued that she was entitled to a costs limit as the claim was an Aarhus Convention Claim within the meaning of the CPR 1998/3132.

CPR 1998/3132 sets out limits on the costs a claimant might be ordered to pay in an Aarhus Convention Claim, providing a limit of £5,000 where the claimant claims as an individual, not as or on behalf of a business or other legal persons. ‘Save the Northern Meadows’ was not a group with a defined membership structure, so the cost limit applied.

Under the CPR, a claimant who confirms that their claim is an Aarhus Convention Claim is required to file and serve a schedule setting out their significant assets, liabilities, income and expenditure, together with the aggregate amount of the financial support that has been and is likely to be provided by others. The claimant provided details of the amounts received on a crowdfunding site and indicated that her target was to raise a total of £35,000, the amount she could reasonably expect to receive from the public. The information she provided therefore met the CPR requirements.

The defendant argued that, of the three proposed grounds for judicial review, only one was potentially within the scope of the Convention. This was the one clearly alleging a breach of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, which was provisions of national law relating to the environment and therefore in scope.

Nevertheless, the court was satisfied that the third ground had been included in the claim in good faith and not for any illegitimate purpose, so the cost limit applied and the application was granted.

Image credit | Alamy

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