EIA Regulations – what the changes mean to you

  • 10 May 2017

Our Senior Landscape Planner, Chantelle Schulz explains the new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2014/52/EU) and its impact on UK legislation as it comes into effect Tuesday 16th May 2017.

The European Directive adopted a revised EIA Directive in 2014 with the aim to:

  • Ensure proportionate and high quality EIAs are undertaken across member states.
  • Reduce the burden on developers and decision makers by focusing EIA only on the most significant impacts and by speeding up of planning consent.

In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) undertook consultation from December 2016 to February 2017 on revising the Town and Country Planning (EIA) Regulations 2017 along with replacing the Infrastructure Planning (EIA) Regulations 2017.

The DCLG has taken the view to keep changes to a minimum, particularly where they feel that the present regulations already meet the requirements of the EU Directive. Much of the consultation therefore asked for additional information or agreement, or not, to this principle.

So what is changing?

  • Screening: The mandatory 21 days in which local authorities have to make a screening decision remains, although additional supporting information will be required as part of an application.
  • Scoping: This remains voluntary, however, where a Scoping Opinion is requested, there will be a requirement to base the EIA on the Scoping Opinion received.
  • New topics: These will require consideration at all stages and include biodiversity, climate, land and human health.
  • Project description: Where relevant, demolition works must be included, along with the quantities and types of construction waste generated.
  • Baseline scenario: This is a new requirement outlining the likely evolution of the baseline scenario in the absence of development.
  • Assessment of effects: The main uncertainties associated with forecasting methods must now be described. Projects already in the planning process are also no longer required to be considered for the cumulative assessment.
  • Assessment of reasonable alternatives: The definition of ‘reasonable alternatives’ to be considered is expanded to include reference to alternatives associated with; project design, technology, location, size and scale.
  • Reporting outputs: Findings will be presented in an EIA report and not in an Environmental Statement.
  • Monitoring significant adverse effects: Any grant of development consent must include, where appropriate, monitoring measures to ensure their ongoing effectiveness.
  • Use of ‘competent experts’: The EIA must be prepared by ‘competent experts’ and  must have, or have access to, sufficient expertise to examine the EIA report.

In the short term, a key matter will be how confident planning authorities are following the changes on 16th May in making their screening and scoping decisions. Applicants may wish to get these completed sooner, rather than later. Where proposed developments are borderline in terms of requiring an EIA, applicants may benefit from increased ability to screen the development out from EIA by providing details of proposed mitigation measures.

In summary, it seems unlikely that the new regulations will dramatically change the way EIA works in practice.

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