A UK court has given permission to environmental group Greenpeace to pursue a legal challenge against the government over BP’s drilling plans at the Vorlich oilfield in the North Sea.

At a hearing in the High Court, Mrs Justice Lang granted Greenpeace permission to proceed with a judicial review against the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). UK supermajor BP is named as an interested party.

Greenpeace has argued that the government was wrong to award BP a permit to drill at Vorlich, in the central North Sea and due on stream later this year, because it failed to properly consult the public on its decision.

BP declined to comment.

Last year, a 12-day stand-off between Greenpeace and BP delayed the journey of drilling rig Paul B Loyd Jr to the oilfield, which is said to hold 30 million barrels of oil.

In June, Greenpeace activists boarded the rig as it was being towed out to sea in the Cromarty Firth.

BP and rig operator Transocean sought court interdicts in a bid to stop the action, but Greenpeace activists continued their protest.

Greenpeace said that, in a separate legal case, Transocean is seeking hefty fines and jail sentences against Greenpeace and its executive director John Sauven as punishment for breaching the interdict.

Sauven said: “BP has been given free rein by the government to drill for more oil and gas in the North Sea, without proper public consultation and without any consideration of the devastating impact that the use of this oil will have on our climate.

“We took action last year and boarded BP’s rig to stop this from happening. Now we will fight to prove that BP should never have been there in the first place.”

Earlier this month, a separate lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and Nature & Youth against the Norwegian state was dismissed. It claimed earlier block awards under the 23rd licensing round in the Barents Sea were in breach of Norway’s constitution, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenpeace immediately said it would appeal the latest decision to the country’s Supreme Court.