A Legal Foundation for Environmental Protection

Module titleA Legal Foundation for Environmental Protection
Module codeLAW1016C
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Mrs Kate Holtaway (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In this module you will be introduced to law in the context of the environment and how important the legal process is in its protection. The module seeks to provide you with an overview of how the law has evolved to provide protection for the environment in its own right where its origins were largely historic concerns for public health.

You will develop empathy for the different stakeholders in environmental issues. We will consider pathways to reconcile competing interests in an attempt to strike a balance between developmental or industrial progress and the need to protect our environment.

You are not expected to have any legal knowledge or experience and the module is therefore ideal for students on an interdisciplinary pathway, as well as being a compulsory element of the Environmental Science degree. The module is designed as an essential foundation for those seeking employment following graduation in an environmental field where a working knowledge of law and policy will be assumed. It also provides an excellent foundation for further legal study.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the challenges that we face in environmental law and the difficulties associated with balancing different values and interests that people, businesses and nations have in decisions that affect their environment. Planning decisions permit development that can impact our ecosystems, and they limit development to prevent harm. Businesses, industry, the economy, our ecosystems and ultimately our planet are all impacted by decisions that are made on a local, national and global basis to permit or prevent development, and this module will introduce you to the systems and procedures that facilitate these controls.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. describe comprehensively the principles and foundations that underpin environmental law and policy on a local, national and global scale
  • 2. identify and understand the role and function of the judiciary and the main regulatory bodies involved in environmental protection and law making

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. relate theoretical perspectives to specific case scenarios
  • 4. synthesise information and recognise relevance and, with guidance, develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 5. begin, with guidance, to evaluate and articulate weaknesses in the arguments of others

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. retrieve and efficiently use primary and secondary library-based and electronic sources with minimum guidance
  • 7. make small-group presentations on a selected topic and defend an argument in seminar discussions and debate
  • 8. understand and reflect upon substantive and theoretical texts
  • 9. work independently and manage time efficiently and effectively in preparing coursework
  • 10. effectively interact with peers in small-group discussion and debate, modifying own position where appropriate

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module begins by considering the development of environmental concern over the last 60 years and how the law has responded.  The module looks at the scope of environmental law and its relevance to your studies. The module will then build on this introduction and will include the following topics:-

  • The challenges we face in Environmental Law – reflecting on our history and the role of law in navigating environmental crises. 
  • Foundational principles in environmental law – taking precaution, preventing harm from happening in the first place and the principle that where there is pollution, that the polluter should be held accountable.
  • Reconciling conflicting attitudes and interests with a view to protecting the environment.
  • Navigating the planning system and the role of planning in sustainable development
  • Environmental Assessment and Permitting – a right to pollute the planet, or an effective example of ‘command and control’ type regulation.
  • Legal mechanics for the non-lawyer – the role of the courts in environmental law - how should environmental wrongdoers be punished?

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 24Interactive lectures: Core content will be delivered during interactive lectures where guidance will be given for further reading
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 6Problem solving workshops: Workshops will consolidate the reading and give students a chance to practice their skills by application of the principles to problem scenarios
Guided Independent Study120Reading for lectures, preparation for and writing up of summative assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshops will provide students with opportunities for formative feedback throughout the module3 x 2 hour workshops1-10Peer and lecturer feedback and guidance
A draft of Part 1 of the portfolio may be handed in between weeks 4 and 5 which will be marked and returned to students500 words1-6, 8-9Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Directed individual presentation in a debate setting (students will role-play and represent the position of a stakeholder at a public hearing)2015 minute presentation of debate (followed by 10 minutes of questions from peers and tutor)1-8, 10Oral feedback following debate from peers and lecturer
Written counter-argument to the position taken during the debate (which should include an opinion on the stakeholders most likely to disagree with this position and why)301,000 words1-6, 8-10Written feedback directly linking the content of the work to the marking criteria
A five-part critical Learning Portfolio covering 4 selected topics from the module. The learning portfolio should be critical and evaluative of the issues, concepts, readings and values addressed on the module502,500 words1-6, 8-9Written feedback directly linking the content of the work to the marking criteria


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation Debate and Written Counter-ArgumentEssay (1500 words) replicating the ideas considered in the original assessments (50%)1-6, 8-10August/September reassessment period
PortfolioPortfolio (2,500 words) (50%)1-6, 8-9August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic Reading:

Bell and McGillivray, Pedersen, Lees, Stokes, Environmental Law (9th Edition, 2017)

Wolf and Stanley on Environmental Law, Wolf, F and Stanley, N (6th edition, 2013) Routledge Taylor and Francis

Finch and Fafinski, Legal Skills, OUP (7th Edition, 2019).

Kramer, EC Environmental Law, Sweet and Maxwell (8th Edition, 2016)

Connie, Bradney and Burton, English Legal System in Context (5th Edition, 2010), OUP, Oxford

Partington, M, Introduction to the English Legal System (2019) OUP Oxford

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Law, policy, administration, legal, attitudes, environment, planning, assessment, permitting, legal mechanics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date