Driving Change

1st December 2017


Rufus Howard reports back on two years of chairing the Impact Assessment Network steering group, highlighting the key activities and latest developments

In February 2015, IEMA launched the Impact Assessment Network and assembled a steering group with representatives from across government, academia and the private sector.

The IA Network has developed a number of task and finish and subgroups that have delivered a range of events, guidance and webinars to IEMA members. Our current groups cover: heritage, soils, climate change resilience and adaptation, traffic and transport, accidents and disasters, health, and digital impact assessment.

In addition, the steering group has helped to create an international group, which has now become a separate stand-alone network, the Global Environment and Social Assessment (GESA) group.

Highlights to date

The overarching focus of the steering group has been to deliver activities on two core themes: proportionate assessment and the amended Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.

To that end, working with IEMA HQ and volunteers across the membership and EIA Quality Mark organisations, we have organised an ongoing webinar series and several events and publications, such as the Proportionate EIA Strategy (July 2017), Health in IA (May 2017), Assessing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (May 2017), Delivering Quality Development: Mitigation and Monitoring (July 2016), Shaping Quality Development: Design and IA (Nov 2015), and Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation (Nov 2016).

Key events included: the launch of the proportionate EIA strategy (2017); launch conferences for the EIA directive in London and Edinburgh (2017); the Proportionate Assessment Summit (2016); ‘Towards a Global IA Competency Framework’ (2016); and the EIA and environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) masterclass (2015).

New for 2018

At our October meeting, the steering group decided to align our 2018 activities to the four key strands identified in the Proportionate EIA Strategy, namely; enhancing people; improving scoping; sharing responsibility; and embracing innovation and digital.

Upcoming events and publications for 2018 are: a digital assessment event focusing on learning from international practice; a primer on significance in EIA; updated climate change and adaptation guidance; a briefing on considering major accidents under the new regulations; plus, guidance on both best and most versatile soils and traffic in EIA. We will also see publication of the outcomes from the Industry Evidence Plan pilot programme on offshore wind.

Embracing innovation and digital

In particular, we are keen to emphasise the proportionate EIA strategy’s digital and innovation pillar. Nick Geisler (Crossrail2) and I presented a webinar on digital impact assessment in September, following articles in The Environmentalist and earlier webinars on the topic.

In late summer, a new digital IA working group had its first call, and plans are afoot for a digital symposium later in 2018.

The year’s activities will start with a GESA group digital IA-themed event hosted by ERM, focusing on international IA practice.

We plan to follow this up with an applied practice in the UK event, exploring: new technologies in data capture / survey (drones, satellites, environmental DNA), digital working and reporting (VR, BIM, AR, web-based ES) and new techniques for monitoring and enforcement (data-mining, remote sensing, social media).

Call for volunteers

We are seeking new volunteers to join the IA Network steering group from February 2018. I would like to offer the network’s thanks to the following members who are stepping down having completed a three-year term on the group: Debbie Cousins (EBRD), Neil Kedar (TfL), Richard Gwilliam (National Grid), Sarah Metcalfe (NPA) and Peter Miller (HS2).

We are looking to recruit a further four to six talented members to join the volunteer steering group for up to three years. The group meets face to face twice yearly, and seeks to drive good practice and innovation. To provide a diversity of membership, we particularly welcome applications from developers, lawyers, planners, utilities and academics.

We also encourage applications with respect to age, gender and nationality, as we are keen to better represent the breadth of people within the IA community. It is anticipated that new members will be appointed in time to attend the next steering group meeting in February 2018.

Special thanks

I would like to extend special thanks to Josh Fothergill, who has moved on from his post as IA policy lead at IEMA.

Josh, to many of our members, is the face and voice of EIA, having travelled the length and breadth of the UK (and occasionally further afield) extolling the virtues of good practice in EIA for nearly a decade. He will continue to be an active member of the network as a practitioner.

On behalf of all practitioners, I sincerely thank Josh for his efforts, in particular his championing of the EIA Quality Mark, influencing the new EIA directive and developing the proportionate EIA strategy.

His unrelenting optimism and humour in carrying the flag of environment and impact assessment has been an inspiration to the IA community. Thank you, Josh!

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