Collaborative project aims to make EIA more concise, accessible and transparent.

In a previous column, I discussed plans for the development of an industry evidence programme (IEP), which would bring together knowledge and practice on impact assessment in specific sectors.

The aim is to make environmental impact assessment (EIA) more concise, accessible and transparent by adopting risk-based, proportionate and evidence-based practice.

I can now confirm that, after the workshop session held at the IEMA Proportionate EIA conference on 29 April, a pilot project to demonstrate the IEP concept has started. It is based on offshore wind and will develop an industry evidence base (IEB) for the sector that, if successful, can be used to develop IEBs more widely.

The project is a collaborative undertaking with an initial steering group comprised of IEMA, Natural England, The Crown Estate, the Marine Management Organisation, Marine Scotland and Natural Resources Wales. Others are being approached to join the group.

A panel of leading impact assessment academics from the universities of East Anglia, Kent, Liverpool, Oxford Brookes and Strathclyde has also been assembled.

IEBs have been conceived in response to concerns among practitioners, consenting authorities, developers and stakeholders about the scale and effectiveness of EIA.

The project seeks to:

  • focus EIA on significant environmental topics;
  • provide a central hub for good practice and guidance on mitigation, monitoring and conditions;
  • establish knowledge gaps for targeted further research; and
  • provide a robust evidence base to support decisions that lead to proportionate impact assessment.

As the project gathers momentum, I will be seeking further input from IEMA members, in particular from practitioners in the impact assessment network. This will be through workshops, stakeholder events and surveys.

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