A round-up of the latest key developments in EIA.
Council considers festival impacts
Plans to stage the annual T in the Park festival at a new site have still to be agreed after Perth & Kinross council asked the organiser, DC Concerts, for further information on potential environmental impacts. The council has now received an addendum from DC Concerts to the environmental statement, which provides more details on the following issues: traffic and transport; ecology; ornithology; water management and private water supplies; noise; projection description; and site selection.
The festival had been held at Balado airfield since 1997 but it has been forced to move after the Health and Safety Executive last year raised concerns that the site was too close to a pipeline carrying oil to Grangemouth. DC Concerts submitted a planning application in January, together with an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and a pre-application consultation report, to stage the festival at Strathallan Castle in July.
Public consultation ended on 24 April and councillors were due to meet to decide whether to grant approval as the environmentalist went to press.
Assessing SEA alternatives
Research suggests that “alternatives” – different ways of meeting the objectives of policies, plans and programmes – is one of the most poorly completed parts of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and that the limitations of current practice have resulted in objections and judicial reviews. These limitations include: belated consideration of reasonable options; narrow scope of proposals that often include unrealistic or retrofitted substitutes; limited stakeholder and public involvement in the assessment and selection of alternatives; a lack of systematic approaches to their assessment and comparison; and inadequate reporting of the “storyline” on how they were identified, what the potential impacts are and why the preferred measure was selected. A study in Environment Impact Assessment Review provides practical guidance on the identification and development of alternatives, their assessment and comparison, selection of the preferred option, and documentation of the process and the reasons for selection.
Calculating solar glare
Photovoltaic (PV) systems can generate glare due to optical reflections, so effective assessment of such impacts is crucial to planning PV systems in urban areas and in traffic zones. These assessments must focus on limiting potential reflections to avoid risks to public infrastructure or discomfort for residents. However, it can be difficult to calculate glare in locations ahead of installing the PV panels. In a paper published in Environment Impact Assessment Review, researchers at the Frauhofner Institute for Applied Technology in Germany outline a new 3D-simulation methodology that will enable planners to calculate and visualise reflections or glare from PV panels based on the geometry of a system’s environment.
EIA practice update with IEMA’s Josh Fothergill
Hong Kong study tour
In April, IEMA welcomed a delegation of 13 impact assessment professionals from Hong Kong, including executive committee members of the local Institute of EIA (HKIEIA) and four officials from the environmental protection division at the regional government.
The delegation came to the UK for a knowledge exchange study tour with IEMA members and were kindly hosted by Royal Haskoning DHV, Temple Group and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The visit coincided with the 2015 EIA Quality Mark forum, allowing delegates to exchange thoughts and experiences on the challenges and triumphs of working in impact assessment (IA). The second day of the tour also formed the first of IEMA’s new IA Network events. The theme was international knowledge exchange on major infrastructure IA, and included examples from the UK and Hong Kong as well as delivering IA in line with practices required by international financial institutions.
Senior IEMA staff also met the HKIEIA members to discuss how to deliver ongoing success through the memorandum of understanding signed by
the two organisations in 2014. It was agreed that a joint programme of webinars would form the next step in this very positive relationship.
IAIA 15 – Italy
As IEMA’s EIA policy lead, I presented recently at the successful conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) in Florence. It was held between 20–23 April and attended by more than 1,000 delegates. They heard presentations from 600 speakers and were able to exchange knowledge and ideas around the theme of IA in the digital era. IEMA aims to share some of the conference discussion through its IA Network webinar series over the next few months.
- 28 May – webinar: EIA of the expansion of Hong Kong airport.
- 1–2 June – conference: Strategic environmental assessment (Oxford Brookes University event).
25 June – webinar: Innovation
in UK EIA.