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Are you ready for the EIA Changes?

Are you ready for the EIA Changes?

23rd March 2017

On 16th May 2017 the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations will be changing in order to comply with the EIA Directive 2014/52/EU - Amendment. The key changes are as follows:

Screening

The information required at the screening stage has been extended so that screening requests to Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) will be required to include the following:

  1. (a)  a plan sufficient to identify the land;

  2. (b)  a description of the development, including in particular—

    1. a description of the physical characteristics of the development and, where relevant, of demolition works;

    2. a description of the location of the development, with particular regard to the environmental sensitivity of geographical areas likely to be affected;

  3. (c)  a description of the aspects of the environment likely to be significantly affected by the development;

  4. (d)  to the extent the information is available, a description of any likely significant effects of the proposed

    development on the environment resulting from—

    1. the expected residues and emissions and the production of waste, where relevant; and

    2. the use of natural resources, in particular soil, land, water and biodiversity; and

  5. (e)  such other information or representations as the person making the request may wish to provide or make, including any features of the proposed development or any measures envisaged to avoid or

    prevent what might otherwise have been significant adverse effects on the environment.

Importantly, Clause (e) is a key change to the screening process. It enables developers to demonstrate that a project does not constitute EIA development by outlining proposed mitigation measures, which would prevent any significant adverse effects on the environment. If a LPA concludes that a proposed development is not EIA development, then the screening opinion should describe any mitigation measures upon which their decision is based. A subsequent planning application should then incorporate those mitigating measures.

The thresholds for Schedule 1 and 2 have not been changed and the standard 3 week timescale for a LPA to issue a screening opinion remains. However, the 2017 Regulations provide a new provision for this to be extended by up to 90 days, or as may be agreed in writing.

Scoping

The 2017 Regulations state that where a scoping opinion has been requested, the submitted Environmental Statement (ES) must be “based on the most recent scoping opinion or direction issued (so far as the proposed development remains materially the same as the proposed development which was subject to that opinion or direction)”.

This is a new requirement that means applicants will need to work closely with LPAs to ensure the scope of the EIA is appropriate and proportionate. Furthermore, material changes to a scheme are likely to require a new scoping request and ignoring this may result in the ES being deemed invalid by the LPA.

Transitional Arrangements

If a scoping request or an ES has been submitted prior to the 16th May 2017, the 2011 Regulations will continue to apply.

Cumulative Assessment

The EU EIA Directive 2014 now defines cumulative impacts as “existing and/or approved” projects, but remains silent on the proximity or other characteristics of these projects. Interestingly, the 2017 Regulations do not include this definition.

Expertise

The 2017 Regulations now state that an ES must “be prepared by persons who in the opinion of the relevant authority or the Secretary of State, as appropriate, have sufficient expertise to ensure the completeness and quality of the statement”. Furthermore, the 2017 Regulations state that an ES needs to contain a statement by, or on behalf of the applicant, setting out how the expertise requirement has been complied with.

The 2017 Regulations do not define what “sufficient expertise” constitutes, potentially providing opportunities for the relevant authority or other parties to challenge whether this aspect of the regulations have been complied with.

Nexus Planning are registered members of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and we work with a wide range of sub-consultants in the preparation of EIAs, requiring them to have relevant qualifications and experience to prepare the topic chapters of an ES.

If you would like to discuss the implications of these changes in more detail, please contact Adrian Keal, Associate Director or Oliver Bell, Associate.