LDA Design produces valuable summary

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Changes to the EIA regulations expand their scope. Photo: Julian Jones

LDA Design has produced guidance outlining the main changes in the new Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) Regulations, which came into effect on on 16 May.

In its introduction, it states that ‘[the government] has sought to retain, as far is practical, the existing approach to EIA in England as it is well understood by consultants, developers and local authorities. The proposed changes seek to expand the scope of the existing EIA Regulations, rather than present fundamental changes, to help minimise familiarisation costs and business uncertainty.’

The guidance, prepared by the practice’s EIA lead, Robert Pile, summarises the areas that will have the greatest impact on developers and planning authorities, as follows:

EIA screening

A developer may now provide a description of any features/measures of a project envisaged to avoid or prevent what might otherwise have been significantly adverse effects on the environment, in order to demonstrate an EIA is not required.

The requirement for an LPA to adopt a screening opinion within 3 weeks has been retained. However, the new Regulations do allow an LPA to request an extension of time for a period of up to but not exceeding 90 days, but this must be agreed with the developer.

EIA scoping

The Regulations require an Environmental Statement(ES) to be based upon the most recent scoping opinionissued (so far as the proposed development remains materially the same as the proposed development which was subject to that opinion).

Competent experts

The Regulations place responsibility on the developer to employ competent experts to undertake the EIA. The ES must be accompanied by a statement that outlines the relevant expertise or qualifications of such experts.

EIA assessment scope

The Regulations have introduced a specific reference to cultural heritage and amended some of the existing terminology used for environmental factors.

For example, the term ‘Human Beings’ has been replaced by ‘Population and Human Health’ and ‘Flora & Fauna’ with the term ‘Biodiversity’. The Regulations also introduce new requirements:

  • to consider expected significant effects arising from the vulnerability of the project to major accidents or disasters that are relevant to the project concerned; and
  • the impact of the project on climate and the vulnerability of the project to climate change

EIA and HRA coordinated procedures

The Regulations introduce a new requirement for a coordinated procedure where a project is simultaneously subject to an assessment under the EIA Regulations and also the Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA). It is considered that a coordinated procedure provides the greatest flexibility for developers around the phasing and timing of EIA and an ‘appropriate’ assessment under HRA.

Post application consultation time frames

The determination period for an EIA Application will remain the same (16 weeks); however, the minimum public consultation period will be extended from 21 days to 30 days.

Request for further information

The wording in Regulation 25 within the EIA Regulations provides greater clarity with regard to requests for further information (formally known as Regulation 22 Requests). The relevant authority can request an ES to be supplemented with additional information that is ‘directly related to reaching a reasoned conclusion on the likely significant effects of the development.’

Monitoring of significant effects

Any decision to grant development consent should be accompanied by information, where appropriate, on monitoring measures requiring the monitoring of any significant adverse effects on the environment. Any proposed monitoring will be dealt with, where appropriate, through existing provisions such as planning conditions and planning obligations.

Information to be included within an environmental statement

Alternatives

The Regulations retain the requirement to provide a description of the reasonable alternatives studied by the developer and the main reasons for selecting the chosen option, taking into account the effects of the development on the environment. The scope, however, has been expanded to include a comparison of the environmental effects of the alternative options.

Future baseline/climate change

The ES will need to include an outline of the likely evolution of the baseline environment without the implementation of the development as far as natural changes from the baseline scenario can be assessed with reasonable effort.

Climate change

An ES will need to include a description of the impact of the project on climate (for example the nature and magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions) and the vulnerability of the project to climate change.

Major accidents / disasters

An ES will need to include a description of the expected effects of the development on the environment deriving from the vulnerability of the development to risks of major accidents and/or disasters that are relevant to the project concerned.

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