Soil protection and health is rising up the policy agenda with the announcement that a Soil Health Action Plan (SHAPE) for England will be published to help restore the health of our soils.
Lord Goldsmith made the announcement in a speech during a debate at the Report Stage of the Environment Bill in the House of Lords in September 2021. He confirmed that SHAPE will be a crucial part of the UK government’s plan to halt species decline by 2030, as well as meet long-term, legally binding targets on biodiversity. The government recognised that well-managed soils can increase biodiversity, improve water quality and reduce carbon emissions; it is expected to consult on SHAPE’s draft outline in the spring of 2022.
In this context, IEMA is delighted to announce that IEMA’s latest Impact Assessment Guidance, A New Perspective on Land and Soil in Environmental Impact Assessment, will be published in February. The guidance was originally scheduled for publication in October 2021, but final publication has taken longer than anticipated.
The guidance seeks to move practice away from a narrow focus on quantifying and financially compensating impacts on agricultural land, instead advocating a new and wider approach to assessing the soil functions, ecosystem services and natural capital provided by land and soils. It highlights and reinforces the importance of soil functions and ecosystem services to wider systems including, but not limited to, carbon and climate, hydrology, food production, biodiversity and ecology. Part position paper, part educational resource and part methodological guidance,
the result is a handbook on the current state of land and soil in environmental impact assessment (EIA) and will be a valuable resource for practitioners seeking to assess and manage the effects of developments on land and soil.
IEMA sees this as the start, rather than the end, of its guidance in this important area, and looks forward to further innovations in methodological development and future examples of good practice from EIA members and EIA Quality Mark organisations. We are hopeful that this publication will strengthen the consideration and protection of our vital and finite land and soil resources through impact assessment and planning.
Go to bit.ly/Webinar_LandS to book onto the guidance launch webinar for the chance to hear from the guidance’s key authors.