Earlier in March, the European Parliament finally approved amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, bringing new requirements for developers and authorities in future. The changes were examined by IEMA in a recent webinar and seminars, and we summarise the implications below.
The Directive requires the assessment of the effects of certain public and private development projects on the environment, and has been in force since 1985, has been amended three times and was consolidated in 2011. Several regulations transpose the Directive in the UK, including the Town & Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 for planning applications in England.
The European Commission published its proposed ‘comprehensive overhaul’ of the EIA Directive in October 2012 (see here). This followed the EU’s review of the effectiveness of the Directive in 2009 and a public consultation and conference at Leuven in 2010 (which Trevor Turpin, Director at NPA, attended). Following negotiations between the European Commission, Parliament, Council of Ministers and member states, a set of compromise amendments was agreed by the European Parliament. Once formally ratified by the Council of Ministers, the Directive will become law, and the UK and other member states will be required to transpose the revisions into national legislation by mid-2017.
Some key changes to the EIA Directive include:
- The Screening process, when the need for EIA is determined, will be strengthened. Where screening is required for a project, a Screening Report will need to be submitted which includes specific information about the development, the environment and the likely effects, to help local authorities (and other competent authorities) give their Screening Opinion, which will need to be explained fully.
- 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.
- Environmental Statements would become known as ‘EIA Reports’.
- EIA Reports will need to be prepared by ‘competent experts’.
- A broader scope of environmental issues will need to be considered in EIA Reports, including climate change, biodiversity, human health, vulnerability to accidents and disasters, and resource use.
- Cumulative effects are defined as those arising from the development with other existing and approved developments, taking account of existing environmental problems 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.
- Scoping: Although not a mandatory step, scoping decisions will be more binding, as an EIA Report will need to be based on any Scoping Opinion given by the competent authority.
- Monitoring arrangements will need to be defined in EIA Reports in relation to any significant environmental effects, where appropriate.
- Competent authorities will need to ‘examine’ the EIA Report and make their own reasoned conclusions on the environmental effects of development.
- Authorities will need to secure mitigation measures, including elements of development design and other measures, e.g. through conditions, and ensure that they are implemented by the developer.
- Where a competent authority is both the developer and decision-maker, a functional separation will need to be set up to avoid a conflict of interest.
IEMA will be updating their EIA Quality Mark standard, of which NPA is a member, to reflect the aspects of good EIA practice which will become legal requirements.
NPA will be keeping an eye on any further changes, how the Directive is transposed in the UK, and the implications for our clients.
As members of the IEMA Quality Mark registration scheme, and with IEMA Registered EIA Practitioners, our team can advise clients on EIA from the outset of a project, during feasibility studies, EIA Screening, Scoping, ES preparation and review. For more information on our expertise and project examples please see https://npaconsult.co.uk/expertise/environmental-assessment/. You can read the revised Directive here.