EIA update: August 2015
A round-up of the latest key developments in EIA.
The latest EIA newsletter from the environmental assessment team at the Scottish government and the consultation authorities – Scottish Natural Heritage, Sepa and Historic Scotland – has been published (lexisurl.com/iema103318). Highlights include:
- Throughout August, those submitting reports to the SEA Gateway will be asked to participate in a customer survey to gauge the effectiveness of the online tool to manage the administration of strategic environmental assessment consultations.
- For three months from October, the consultation authorities plan to trial a single response to reports and plans when commenting on environmental report consultations.
- The Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014 establishes Historic Environment Scotland (HES). It will take over the functions of Historic Scotland, including its role as a consultation authority for strategic environmental assessment on behalf of Scottish ministers. Secondary legislation is due to take effect on 1 October 2015 making HES responsible for fulfilling this role in the future.
- The 2015 Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA) forum takes place on 9 September at Victoria Quay, Edinburgh. Email HRAdevelopmentplans@scotland.gsi.gov.uk to register. In 2016, the HRA and SEA forums will be combined in one event.
Planning conditions, section 106 agreements and unilateral undertakings are currently the only mechanisms for ensuring the delivery of mitigation commitments proposed in an environmental statement. But, as Alistair Walker at the Waterman Group argues in a new QMark paper, this process can be inefficient and the legal controls do not ensure implementation of mitigation proposals. He says this is for three main reasons: the change of responsibility from pre-planning to post-planning; a lack of ownership and responsibility for implementing and monitoring post-planning mitigation measures; and a lack of public sector resources and guidance. Walker says that simplifying the transition and having the correct mechanisms in place between the pre-planning and post-planning teams would reduce the potential for misinterpretation or poor implementation of mitigation measures after handover.
In a QMark paper, environmental planners Adam Boyden, Alison Carroll and Jonathan Murphy at Nicholas Pearson Associates reveal where an EIA proved useful, even though it was not required. In October 2014, the University of Oxford submitted an environmental statement for student accommodation at Castle Mill. Unusually, the statement was retrospective as it assessed the environmental effects of a development that already had been built with planning permission. It identified several significant environmental effects on the landscape and the historic environment, and considered new design measures to mitigate these effects. The authors argue that, in such cases, a conventional pre-consent EIA would have identified the environmental effects of development if assessment had been required before planning permission was granted.
In June 2021, the UK’s governing Conservative Party lost a by-election in Chesham and Amersham, a seat it had held for 47 years. The principal reasons reported as the cause of this defeat were proposed planning reforms and the promotion of housebuilding on greenfield sites across the south of England.
As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the EIA Quality Mark, IEMA can announce that, during the past 12 months, the scheme has undergone a thorough review of practice, including stakeholder consultation with registrants and assessors, in order to improve it.
The delivery of effective outcomes for the environment, communities and development is a team effort, and more so when it comes to consenting projects that undergo Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).