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Environmental Law

Environmental Law (9th edn)

Stuart Bell, Donald McGillivray, Ole Pedersen, Emma Lees, and Elen Stokes
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date: 29 March 2023

p. 162. History and challengeslocked

p. 162. History and challengeslocked

  • Stuart Bell, Stuart BellProfessor of Law and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of York
  • Donald McGillivray, Donald McGillivrayProfessor of Environmental Law, University of Sussex
  • Ole W. Pedersen, Ole W. PedersenReader in Environmental Law, Newcastle University
  • Emma LeesEmma LeesUniversity Lecturer in Environmental and Property Law, University of Cambridge
  •  and Elen StokesElen StokesProfessorial Research Fellow in Law, University of Birmingham


This chapter broadly considers the origins and evolution of environmental law and policy. It then moves on to look at some of the key challenges for the future, and at possible trends in environmental law and in the costs of complying—and not complying—with environmental law. Environmental controls have a long history, going back to medieval statutes on small-scale pollution and the development of private law principles to deal with threats to property and communal assets such as water. Of course, until recently, few would have thought of these laws as part of something called ‘environmental law’ because their main focus was on the protection of private and common property. The adequacy of private law, in particular, fell far short of an effective protection regime, even for affected individuals.

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