EIA Update May 2011

17th May 2011

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The latest developments affecting Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) including the increasing importance of sustained development in planning and a Court of Appeal case that has redefined EIA

A presumption in favour of sustainable development

The Budget confirmed the government’s intention to introduce a powerful new “presumption in favour of sustainable development” into the planning process in England. The consultation to define this “presumption” is expected to begin later this month. However, IEMA understands it is likely to have links to whether proposed development is aligned to a local authority’s core strategy. Given the role of sustainability appraisals (SA) in guiding sustainable plan-making by local authorities, the “presumption” has the potential to place greater emphasis on SA/Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) practice. As such, IEMA members are encouraged to engage in the debate.

Court ruling redefines EIA

The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) has lost a Court of Appeal case related to the application of EIA to demolition activities. The case concerned the former Mitchell’s Brewery site in Lancaster, with the ruling referring to a European Court of Justice decision against Ireland, which related to demolition (Case C-50/09). The effect of the Court of Appeal decision means that planned demolitions could now be subject to EIA and may therefore require screening.

Commission takes UK to court over costs of access to environmental justice

The European Commission is planning to start proceedings against the UK for the perceived high and unpredictable costs of making a legal challenge related to environmental legislation, such as EIA. Under EU law, the possibility of challenging decisions affecting the environment should be fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive. As EIA is designed to boost public awareness of environmental matters and ensure increased transparency, the current financial obstacles in the UK have led the commission to conclude that the laws covering this area have not been fully transposed and are not being properly applied.

U-turn on SEA of Regional Spatial Strategy abolition?

CLG has now decided to undertake an environmental assessment of the abolition of each Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). Planning minister Bob Neill has indicated that the government is undertaking the assessment on a voluntary basis and that it intends to produce an environmental report for consultation in each region in the summer, which may further delay the formal revocation of RSS.


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