First impressions of EIA proposals

14th December 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Adaptation ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Planning


James Backshall

The government's approach to ompetence' could raise a few eyebrows.

IEMA is very pleased to see DCLG and Defra launch their consultations on transposing the amended Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive in 2016, following the equivalent consultations in Scotland and Wales through the autumn. Equally, I am sure members will be pleased to see that there has been co-ordination between the two departments on the consultation period, which in running to the 1 February provides sufficient time to run engagement events and gather practitioner views in the new year.

In relation to the proposed amendments to the English Town and Country Planning and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning regimes, the main approach that has been taken will not be a surprise to members, with many of the 2014 European amendments being ‘copied out’ into the draft Regulations, both of which are usefully provided as part of the consultation. Members will be interested to note that the proposal is to fully replace the current 2011 and 2009 versions of the respective regulations with new 2016 regulations on the 16 May 2017.

However, there are a few areas in to the approach DCLG has put forward that immediately draw the eye and could cause some concerns. I noted two potential issues on a quick first pass over the consultation. Firstly, the wording used in the draft regulations with the aim of ensuring that EIA is more proportionate, and iterative assessment is not restricted as a result of the need to ensure future Environmental Statements are ‘based on’ the scoping opinion issued by the local authority is rather confusing and could infer that multiple scoping opinions can be sought for the same development.

Secondly, the DCLG’s approach to competent experts raises similar concerns to the approach proposed in Wales, back in August, in that competent expert is defined as having ‘sufficient expertise’, which is a term used in the amended EIA Directive to refer to a different requirement. Further to this, under the EIA regime proposed for the planning system it would initially be down to local authorities to determine whether the people who completed an Environmental Statement were in fact competent experts, an approach that carries significant risk of delay and costs for a developer should the planning officer disagree with an EIA professional’s credentials.

I am already looking forward to the discussions and engagement I will be running with IEMA members at workshops in January, we are currently scheduling Birmingham and Manchester events and are exploring options for further locations.

Click here for the DCLG's consultation and here for Defra's consultation. Northern Ireland's consultation, also launched today, is here.


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