Implementation will take three years
In March 2014, the European Parliament approved a range of amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2011/92/EU). It is expected that these amendments will be formalised into law before the forthcoming European elections in May. Though member states have three years to implement the new directive, it is worth bringing to the attention of LI members some of the key changes that will be introduced:
– The EIA screening process will be required to be more comprehensive. This will include the provision of information on design measures, proposed mitigation and the need to consider the impacts of the development process;
– Mitigation measures can be taken into account in screening, which may help avoid EIA, but will need to be specified, and retained in the final development proposals;
– EIA scoping, where requested, will result in the scoping opinion being the basis for the subsequent EIA;
– Environmental Statements would become known as ‘EIA Reports’;
– The amendments have introduced new topics into EIA, including climate change, biodiversity, human health and resource use;
– A range of ‘alternatives’, including a ‘do nothing’ scenario, alternative designs, technologies, locations, sizes and scales of development, will need to be assessed if they have been considered by the applicant;
– Monitoring arrangements will need to be defined in EIA Reports in relation to any significant environmental effects, where appropriate; and
– The EIA Report will need to be undertaken by ‘competent experts’, though this will be defined more clearly by individual member states.
Regarding the final amendment listed above on ‘competent experts’, the Landscape Institute made representations to the Department for Communities and Local Government during the consultation phase in 2013 stating that it was not persuaded that this proposed new requirement is necessary or proportionate. It highlighted that EIAs are currently undertaken by specialists who come from a wide range of professional backgrounds and that if a national EIA accreditation scheme becomes necessary in future, it must be open to all suitably qualified individuals who are able to demonstrate that they meet the required standard, regardless of their membership of any particular professional body. The LI will pay close attention to the Government’s implementation of the amendments of the EIA Directive over the coming months and years and ensure that this message is highlighted at every available opportunity.
Any members with particular expertise in this area who would wish to be involved in future consultation responses or dialogue can register their interest with Stephen Russell, the LI’s policy and public affairs manager..