MSc Environmental Impact Assessment & Management

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Concepts in Environmental Law

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN60441
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Protecting the natural environment is a matter of fundamental importance to governments and communities world-wide, and environmental issues now permeate our legal and administrative systems. It is now widely accepted that the rise in environmental damage in recent decades is attributable largely to human activities, and that this is likely to have a serious impact not only on the environment, but also our current way of life. Action has been taken at UK, EU and international level to protect the environment in a number of ways, for example, imposing environmental standards on polluting entities, taxing harmful emissions and by-products through levies, trading schemes and other such market-based mechanisms and by promoting environmentally-friendly behaviour. In other words, the activities of government agencies, business corporations and individuals are all subject to various degrees and forms of regulation and management to ensure the protecction of the environment. 


  • to appreciate the legal, institutional and policy frameworks which structure and regulate decision-making concerning the environment
  • to investigate the role of law and regulation in securing environmental aims and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different regulatory mechanisms used in environmental law
  • to explore the role of the courts in tackling environmental challenges

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, Drop-in sessions, Padlet 'discussion board', group workshops

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the different sources of environmental law
  • Understand and critically evaluate the importance of sustainable development as an environnmental policy goal
  • Develop an understanding of how the courts, through common law and climate litigation, can contribute to environmental protection

Intellectual skills

  • Understand and critically evaluate the importance of sustainable development as an environmental policy goal
  • Critically evaluate different regulatory techniques (such as command and control regulation, and economic instruments) that can be used to secure environmental protection aims, drawing on examples to illustrate

Practical skills

Consider, through the use of a case study on planning, EIA and public particiaption, the role of law in the development of renewable energy

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Assemble relevant information and subject it to critical legal analysis
  • Engage in and cultivate reasoned legal and policy arguments
  • Develop research skills in a legal context
  • Develop communication skills by participating in small group discussions and working in collaboration with other students

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Essay (3000 words) 100% weighting

Feedback methods

Written feedback will be provided within 15 working days of submission of the assignment.

Recommended reading

S. Bell, D. McGillivray, O. Pedersen, E. Lees and E. Stokes, Environmental Law (OUP, 9th ed, 2017)

E. Fisher, B. Lange and E. Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases and Materials (OUP, 2nd ed, 2019)

J. Holder and M. Lee, Environmental Protection, Law and Policy: Text and Materials (CUP, 2nd ed, 2007)

R. Macrory, Regulation, Enforcement and Governance in Environmental Law (Hart Publishing, 2nd ed. 2014)

N. Gunningham, R. Kagan and D. Thornton, Shades of Green (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2003).

A. Mol, Sonnenfeld, D. And Spaargaren, G. The Ecological Modernisation Reader (Routledge, 2009).

M. Hajer The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process (Clarendon Press, 1997).

N. Carter, The Politics of the Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 122

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Carolyn Abbot Unit coordinator

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