EIA update/November 2014
Responding to plans to raise screening thresholds in England.
In late July, the communities department launched a consultation on plans to raise the screening thresholds for housing and industrial estate developments from 0.5 hectares to 5 hectares. IEMA responded to this consultation based on member input from a series of workshops among EIA Quality Mark registrants, engaging more than 50 practitioners, including consultants, planners, developers and academics.
IEMA’s response agreed that exploring raising the thresholds for such developments was appropriate, but that retaining a simple land area based criterion would not be. Members expressed unease that the proposed thresholds would miss some forms and locations of development with likely significant environmental effects. Particular concerns were raised in relation to high-rise housing developments and those built near “sensitive areas”. In relation to housing developments, members indicated that a threshold that included a trigger based on the number of new units or new residents could be more appropriate. Such a threshold would have a much greater link to common significant effects identified in housing EIAs, such as those related to noise, transport, air quality and ecology disturbance impacts.
IEMA and QMark representatives meet communities department
On 8 October discussions were held between the communities department (Dclg) and IEMA and representatives of the EIA Quality Mark registrants. The meeting was to help identify practical actions that could be taken to deliver more proportionate EIA. The discussions covered activities planned by Dclg and wider agencies to deliver efficient EIA as well as IEMA–QMark plans to produce more effective assessments. It also discussed whether aspects of the recently amended EIA Directive, which were approved by the European parliament in March, should be implemented before the May 2017 deadline in order to deliver efficiency sooner. This could include bringing forward controls to limit the use of further information requests to issues directly relevant to coming to conclusions on significant environmental effects.
Progress on topic guidance
Two new guides – on noise impact assessment (iema.net/noise) and on odour impact assessment (iaqm.co.uk) – have recently been launched. The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management is also updating its guidelines on ecological impact assessment. The aim of the revision is not to change the overall approach, but ensure it is updated to take account of regulatory changes. The revised guidelines should published in early 2015.
Forthcoming EIA webinars
27 November – What can UK EIA learn from international practice?
18 December – EIA and fracking.
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).