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Environmental legal advice line launched

The UK's first national environmental legal advice line was launched by Friends of the Earth today (Wednesday 24 January). The free phone service has been set up by the organisation's Rights & Justice Centre, which aims to help people understand their rights and use the law to defend and improve their local environment. Lawyers at the centre will be on hand to provide legal advice on environmental issues to people who are concerned about the impact of public authority decisions on their community and their local environment; to people who don't feel they have been properly consulted about changes in their area or to people who are simply unsure about their rights.

Residents of the London Borough of Hillingdon are already working with the Rights & Justice Centre. Local people have been putting up with pollution and smells from a Nestle coffee factory for over 30 years. Smoke from the factory settles on their gardens and in their houses and some residents have complained about breathing difficulties or asthma. Friends of the Earth is working with a local group, Community against Pollution (CAP), to take the local Council to court and force the factory to clean up its act.

Friends of the Earth Rights & Justice Centre Lawyer, Gita Parihar said: “We believe people should be involved in making the decisions that affect their communities and their environment.  Unfortunately many simply don't know what their rights are. That's why the Rights & Justice Centre has launched this free environmental legal advice line. If people are concerned about the impact of decisions made by a public authority, they can telephone us for advice.”

Other cases successfully taken up by the Centre include a legal challenge to the Metropolitan Police on behalf of Critical Mass cyclist Des Kay. Kay had challenged the Met's claim that London's Critical Mass Cycle Ride was unlawful and that cyclists taking part were liable to prosecution. The London Critical Mass Cycle Ride has taken place on the last Friday of every month since April 1994 and is part of a global phenomenon in which cyclists in more than 300 cities worldwide take to the streets once a month in a celebration of safe cycling.

The legal advice line can be contacted on FREEPHONE 0808 801 0405 between 6.30 – 8.30pm every Wednesday evening. It is staffed by Friends of the Earth's legal staff and by volunteer lawyers. Individuals who contact the advice line will be given preliminary advice. Cases will then be either taken up by the Rights and Justice Centre or passed onto an organisation that can help.