The addition of the proposed Hunterston coal-fired power station to Scotland's National Planning Framework was subjected to a legal challenge by bird-watcher and Largs resident Marco McGinty on technical grounds.

The last-minute nature of the Scottish Government's decision meant that the proposal had not been properly advertised and neither had alternatives been given credible consideration, he argued.

A Court of Session ruling yesterday has confirmed a previous judgment that the Government was within its rights to take the action it did.

This is disappointing for those who had hoped to overturn the verdict and prevent what they see as the despoilation of a nationally important nature site.

But while that matter is settled this case raises other questions.

Mr McGinty faces costs of up to £30,000 for his failed action, and the Court declined to reduce this to £5,000 in line with changes designed to cap the costs of litigants.

For environmentallists this is a critical issue. The prohibitive costs of environmental law in the UK has long been seen as a major barrier to those who wish to take legal action in the public interest when wealthy businesses or councils take actions which fail to protect the natural world.

The UK Government is a signatory to the Aarhus Convention, which protects environmental litigants and includes a demand that access to justice in such cases should not be restricted due to prohibitive expense.

But that is exactly what does happen all too frequently.

In 2009 a study of more than 700 cases over four years found that 56% of environmental judicial review cases which the charity the Environmental Law Foundation considered to have a reasonable basis, did not go forward for fear of legal costs.

The Court of Session ruling came just a day after the European Court of Justice ruled on this very issue, and concluded the UK is in breach of an EU Public Participation Directive, because of the way legal costs obstruct campainers.

Developers plainly fear being mired in endless legal challenges, and plainly see some environmental campaigners as a nuisance.

Road Sense campaigner William Walton faced similar objections, over his lengthy legal battle to question the planning of the Aberdeen City Bypass, which even led Alex Salmond - ludicrously - to dub him "one of the most disliked people in the country".

There is a balance to be struck between the rights of individuals and campaign groups to protest and to challenge decisions they believe are wrong or have been mishandled, and the kind of vexatious litigation which can bog down a valued public project and see the cost to the public purse soaring.

While Marco McGinty's case has failed, his right to bring it should be defended. The fact that he faces up to £30,000 in legal costs can only serve as a deterrent to others.

UK environmental law still mitigates against access to justice when developers have deep pockets and members of the public feel they need to swallow their concerns, or face possible financial ruin.