Effective screening avoids unnecessary EIA

11th September 2012


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  • Water ,
  • Construction ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Natural resources

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IEMA

Experts from Black & Veatch explain how sound environmental screening and proactive stakeholder engagement helped to secure a decision that no environmental impact assessment (EIA) was required for a water reservoir in a public park

Thames Water’s Earley Service Reservoir Scheme in Reading will provide additional water storage capacity at a reservoir complex that supplies approximately 96,200 properties in the Wokingham area.

To provide increased storage volume for approximately 13,000 new properties by 2030, the reservoir capacity needs to be increased from 21Ml to 36Ml. To achieve this, a new reinforced, concrete-covered water reservoir will be constructed adjacent to the existing covered reservoir and above ground pumping station. A new value house and chamber will also be constructed.

Understanding the issues

Earley reservoir is located within a park in a residential area, with a primary school on its west boundary. The park is not located close to statutory designations, but residential properties border the park. At its closest point, the construction works will be 20m from residential properties. The trees and hedgerows that line sections of the park’s boundary are ideal nesting bird habitat.

Black & Veatch (B&V) was commissioned to undertake the EIA, environmental design and stakeholder engagement for the scheme. Key EIA issues included:

  • the impact of construction noise and vibration;
  • reduced air quality associated with large-scale earthworks;
  • increased congestion;
  • temporary and permanent landscape impacts;
  • impacts on protected species, local ecology and trees;
  • impacts on heritage and archaeology;
  • the risk of flooding from reservoirs and groundwater; and
  • the efficient use of resources for minimal carbon footprint.

Listening to feedback

Practical stakeholder engagement and innovative designs to reduce environmental impact were crucial to achieving stakeholder support and the planning authority decision that no EIA was required.

Prior to B&Vs submission of the request for an EIA screening opinion, three public exhibitions were held as part of the communications strategy. Several important stakeholders were identified, including Earley Town Council, Earley Environmental Group, Berkshire Archaeology and the University of Reading.

The public exhibitions allowed local residents and stakeholders to inform the design and have input into reinstatement proposals. Approximately 1,200 invitations were sent out, with 145 people attending the exhibitions.

The feedback received was used by the landscaping team producing the landscape and visual impact assessment to determine final reinstatement proposals.

Proposed enhancements a direct result of public feedback include:

  • covering the reservoir cells with earth and profiling the new embankments to create softer contours;
  • planting a wildflower and grass meadow to attract invertebrates and birds and provide seasonal variation;
  • planting native trees, including oak and disease resistant elm; and
  • creating informal paths to provide direct routes across the park.

Public consultation also provided environmental information from those living closest to the working area and working methodologies were altered, where appropriate, to ensure the concerns of local residents and other stakeholders were addressed.

For example, local residents and park users were concerned the wooden hoardings selected for temporary construction fencing would create dark alleyways. In response, it is now proposed to erect heras fencing with a fabric mesh covering. This will secure the construction site, help prevent dust and allow more light through onto pathways.

Novel techniques have also allowed for planting on the reservoir’s embankment slopes during reinstatement, allowing more effective screening.

Tackling traffic

Potential traffic impacts were a key concern for the project. The surrounding residential area is susceptible to morning and afternoon traffic rush hours, as well as ”the school run”.

To reduce the volume of construction traffic, a traffic management plan identified a number of measures, such as timing of deliveries outside peak times, specific haul roads for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and lay bys where HGVs can wait if the delivery area is busy.

Furthermore, the innovative use of prefabricated concrete for the reservoir has reduced the amount of HGV traffic predicted to visit the site by 16%. Using prefabricated concrete will also reduce the amount of site work, therefore reducing the impact of nuisance.

The reuse of excavated material has also significantly reduced the volume of traffic, saving at least 8,000 HGV movements.

Specialist studies and planning

Following Wokingham Borough Council’s decision that no EIA was required for the development, targeted additional investigations were successfully conducted by B&V. These included an archaeological trench investigation, noise survey, landscape and visual impact assessment and a transport management plan. These investigations were submitted as part of the final planning application in August 2012 (ref: F/2012/1824).


This article was written as a contribution to the EIA Quality Mark’s commitment to improving EIA practice.

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