More streamlined and fewer Environmental Statements? Consultation commences on new EIA Regulations for England

Posted by Ben Stansfield on 10 January 2017


Amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations, which were agreed by the European Parliament in 2014, are required to be transposed into UK legislation by 16 May 2017. These changes will affect the town and country planning system in England, and the nationally significant infrastructure planning regime.

On 14 December 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) opened consultations regarding the transposition of these amendments into English legislation, which will close on 17 February 2017. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have already published draft revised EIA regulations.

DCLG has taken a light touch approach where possible to minimise changes to existing EIA regulations. However, implementation of the proposed regulations will influence EIA practices in England. Developers must interpret how proposed changes will impact their projects.

This technical note is developed by Ricardo Energy & Environment to support its clients and stakeholders to understand the proposed EIA regulations and their implications. This is not an exhaustive summary of all proposed changes, but includes key amendments which will influence EIA practice.

For tailored advice from our EIA experts on how the updated requirements will affect your business and what opportunities are available to you to streamline the process, contact Ricardo’s head of EIA, Ben Stansfield, at ben.stansfield@ricardo.com

Amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

 

Assessment process:

Greater emphasis is placed on assessing impacts on human health, landscape, use of natural resources, climate change resilience and adaptation, and risks from major accidents or disasters. Guidance on integration of human health and climate change resilience and adaptation assessments into the EIA process is required.

Joint and/or coordinated procedures for projects which are subject to the Habitats or Wild Birds Directives as well as the EIA Directive have been introduced. This is unlikely to significantly affect EIA practice, as Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRA) are typically incorporated into environmental statements at present.

Screening:

The screening process will be strengthened with more information required from developers, including proposed mitigation measures. However, the emphasis remains on likely significant effects, so the screening stage remains an important opportunity for developers to ensure that assessments are proportionate by eliminating factors where significant impacts are unlikely.

Mitigation measures are to be considered when assessing whether a project will be likely to have significant environmental effects, and incorporation of mitigation into designs may help to ‘screen out’ developments. Any mitigation measures identified at screening would have to be retained in the final development proposals.

Local authorities will need to provide more detailed explanation of their screening decisions.

There are no changes to screening thresholds in Schedule 2.

The 21-day period for receiving a screening opinion from a local authority will remain, rather than shifting to the 90-day period proposed by the European Union EIA Directive. However, provision for extensions to the screening opinion period in exceptional circumstances will remain, and may be used more often given the increased volume of information likely to be associated with screening requests.

Scoping:

The scoping process will remain voluntary, but local authorities must issue a scoping opinion if requested.

The environmental statement must be based on the scoping opinion where one is requested.

Environmental statement:

The environmental statement must be prepared by accredited and technically competent experts and the local authority must ensure that it has, or has access to, competent expertise to examine any environmental statement. Definition of competent expertise will be the responsibility of local authorities, which risks delay if a local authority does not recognise a EIA consultant’s credentials.

Local authorities will have a duty to consider whether the environmental statement is up to date at the time of decision, and provides powers to require further information. There is also a requirement for the consent to contain a reasoned conclusion regarding the significant effects of the project on the environment, and any mitigation measures that are conditional to the consent.

The consultation period for environmental statements will increase from 21 days to at least 30 days.

Monitoring

Environmental mitigation will need to be monitored and fully implemented for projects to remain legally compliant.

Making the most of the changes

In the meantime, Ricardo Energy & Environment’s experts can help you to understand how the new EIA regulations will affect your business. We can advise on approaches to EIA screening that may help your streamline consideration of your project to avoid the EIA process, saving all parties time and money. .

We can also help to ensure that any assessments conducted are proportionate and focus on likely significant impacts only, again achieving time and cost benefits. Our team of technical specialists and accredited EIA practitioners can provide the competent expertise you need to successfully navigate these new regulatory requirements. Should you require any further information, contact Ben Stansfield, Head of EIA, at ben.stansfield@ricardo.com

Ben Stansfield
Head of EIA
Ricardo Energy & Environment
ben.stansfield@ricardo.com 

Download Ricardo's Environmental Impact Assessment pack to find out how we can support your organisation
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