Concern raised over local authority EIA resources

9th February 2017


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Planning ,
  • Public sector ,
  • Local government

Author

Abigail Leach

Practitioners fear local planning authorities will struggle to accomplish their new duties under the amended environmental impact assessment (EIA) regulations.

In a webinar hosted by IEMA on the government’s plans to transpose the revised EIA Directive in England, 89% of participants were wary of the changes.

IEMA policy lead Josh Fothergill, who chaired the webinar, has also hosted a series of workshops to tie in with the communities department (DCLG) consultation on the proposals, which closed at the end of January.

If the amendments go through, planners will have extra responsibilities, including: setting out the reasons behind decisions taken on issues considered in environmental statements (ES); assessing proposals to mitigate impacts on the environment; and judging whether the ES has been written by a ‘competent’ person.

Some 225 EIA practitioners took part in the webinar and 170 responded to IEMA’s poll. Of these 70% believe the proposals would increase the role of local authority planning officers in the EIA process; 64% believe that the local authorities do not have the expertise or the capacity to take on an expanded role; and 25% say they have the expertise, but not the capacity.

The consultation stated that most decision-makers either had staff with enough expertise to examine the environmental statement in their teams or could easily access expertise at bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Tom Wells, director of environmental planning and assessment at commercial property adviser CBRE, said, although some local authorities employ EIA specialists, many use consultants to work on impact assessments. When a consultant is paid to review other consultants’ work, they may feel they have to produce enough feedback to justify the fees, he said.

‘There’s a danger that, if local authorities engage more consultants to review documents on their behalf, it could cause more back and forth between developers and planning authorities to resolve issues that aren’t really critical,’ Wells warned. As with all new regulations, the fear of legal challenge could drive more local authorities to consider using consultants, he added.

Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders’ Federation, does not believe a lack of capacity in EIA should be an issue for local authorities. ‘If local authorities don’t have the resource in house, they’ll need to step up to the plate and retrain their staff,’ he said.

Fothergill described giving local planning authorities responsibility to judge the competence of a developers’ EIA team as an ‘undue retrograde burden’, and ‘goldplating’ of the revised EU directive. He said a better approach was being adopted by the Scottish government.

It had interpreted the directive differently, and planned to leave it to developers to ensure their impact assessments are delivered by qualified, experienced people.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

Interview: Andrew Winston on the many reasons for hope

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

Around 20% of the plastic recycled is polypropylene, but the diversity of products it protects has prevented safe reprocessing back into food packaging. Until now. David Burrows reports

3rd April 2024

Read more

IEMA presents a digital campaign to share knowledge and inspire action in sustainability

2nd April 2024

Read more

Tom Harris examines the supply chain constraints facing the growing number of interconnector projects

2nd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close