IEMA working to produce framework for soil in EIA

15th January 2016

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  • Management ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Ecosystems


Daniel Evans

Last month IEMA announced it would partner with the professional committee of the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) and Natural England to develop a framework for assessing the significance of soil in environmental impact assessment (EIA) projects in the UK.

IEMA will be working with the BSSS committee to produce the new framework, with expert technical advice from Natural England. The framework proposes to plug a gap in available guidelines in the UK for assessing the significance of effects of EIA development on soil, including agricultural land.

The move to produce the much-needed framework comes after recent substantive amendments were made to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2011/92/EU).

Project lead Rob Askew, an IEMA member and soil expert, said: “Given that the amendments must be transposed into UK law by May 2017, and that they require a greater consideration of the effects of development on land, human health and biodiversity, a framework to support EIA professionals is now essential.”

To kickstart development of the framework, a significance of soil working group has been created, with members from the BSSS professional committee and IEMA’s Impact Assessment network. The group will advise on:

  • how to characterise both the impact and the receptor;
  • how to determine a likely effect; and
  • how to apply professional judgment to justify the evaluation of a specific effect’s significance. This follows the approach of existing guidance on EIA topic assessment, produced by IEMA and other professional bodies, including landscape, ecology and noise.

The significance of soil framework will focus on agricultural land and the production of food and fibre – a key soil function. It will also provide guidance on assessing other key soil functions, including its role in carbon sequestration, as a store of physical and cultural heritage, and as a biological habitat. BSSS noted last year that healthy and productive soils were central to achieving many of the UN’s new sustainable development goals, including promoting sustainable agriculture and improving water quality.

Development of the framework has started and is set for publication on World Soil Day 2016 on 5 December.


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