Skip to main content

Study information

A Legal Foundation for Environmental Protection

Module titleA Legal Foundation for Environmental Protection
Module codeLAW1016C
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Caroline Keenan (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


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 all the different ways in which law can be used to protect the environment and give you the tools to choose which types of law are most suitable in different environmental contexts.  

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 the principles and foundations that underpin environmental law and policy
  • 2. compare different legal mechanisms in environmental protection

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. relate law and policy to environmental problems
  • 4. develop an argument at a foundational level

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. make oral presentations on a selected topic and defend an argument orally
  • 6. write in a manner appropriate to the context of the assessment.

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
  • Legal mechanics for the non-lawyer – the role of different types of law (both national and international) in environmental protection.

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 20Interactive lectures: Core content will be delivered and explored during interactive lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Mock Public hearing
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 8Workshops
Guided Independent Study40 Individual acquisition and widening learning on topics
Guided Independent Study28Deepening task based activities conducted independently and as part of a peer-led group
Guided Independent Study50Consolidation task-based activities including preparation of formative and summative work

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 module4 x 2 hour workshops1-6Peer and lecturer feedback and guidance
Draft paragraph300 words1-4, 6Written 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
Individual presentation (students will role-play and represent the position of a stakeholder at a public hearing.)303 minute presentation with accompanying slides (and 10 minutes of asking and answering questions)3-5Written feedback
Learning Portfolio702,250 words1-4, 6Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation Slides and written presentation (1000 words)3-5August/September reassessment period
Learning Portfolio 2,250 words1-4, 6August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Bell and McGillivray, Pedersen, Lees, Stokes, Environmental Law (9th edn, OUP 2017)
  • Elizabeth Fisher, Bettina Lange, and Eloise Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases & Materials (2nd Edition, OUP 2019)
  • 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

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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