High Court rejects legal challenge against major Drax gas power project

ClientEarth and Planning Inspectorate had both argued the power station could undermine the UK’s climate change targets

Plans for Europe’s biggest gas-fired power station have cleared a major hurdle after the UK’s High Court today rejected claims the government acted unlawfully in giving the North Yorkshire project the go-ahead, despite concerns it could undermine the UK’s net zero emissions goal.

Energy firm Drax was given the green light to build a new 3.6MW gas power plant on the site of an old coal power station in October last year by the then-Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, who overruled contrary advice from the UK’s own planning authority.

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The Planning Inspectorate had opposed the project, warning it could lock-in high carbon infrastructure at the expense of the UK’s climate goals, marking the first time it had opposed a major project on such grounds. It also argued wind and solar power would be more cost-effective for bill payers compared to new gas power capacity.

Leadsom, however, argued the country would still need fossil fuel power in future, and that it was not the job of the planning system to block individual projects on climate grounds.

In January, environmental law group ClientEarth then launched a legal challenge against Leadsom’s decision, which it claimed was at odds with the government’s own climate change plans and the UK’s statutory target to decarbonise its economy to net zero by 2050.

It argued that once fully operational, the Drax project could account for up to 75 per cent of emissions from the UK’s electricity sector, and that

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