Policy update: Steamlining EIA - part II

8th October 2013

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Josh Fothergill, IEMA's practice and policy lead on environmental impact assessment (EIA), discusses the efforts being made to streamline the EIA process

My policy column in April looked at plans by the communities department to streamline EIA. Six months on, it is time to ask who is leading the UK towards proportionate EIA?

In 2012, the European Commission launched proposals to revise the EIA Directive (2011/92/EU), claiming the changes would streamline procedure. However, members’ views – captured in IEMA’s position statement – found the proposals burdensome, and it now appears they may stall in 2014.

The European parliament is finalising its amendments, which risk further extending EIA procedures, while modifications by the European Council are moving in the opposite direction – towards a more pragmatic approach.

If the parliament, council and commission cannot agree the text by spring 2014, the European elections will be delay the process. Thus, European plans to streamline EIA will not affect UK practice until 2016–17.

Recent action by the UK government is timely, though it may fail to significantly alter current practice. The communities department has launched streamlined EIA guidance, replacing circular 02/99. But, while the revised guidance is more accessible, it will struggle to alter the risk-averse culture that permeates assessments.

The Scottish government has also revised its guidance (PAN1/2013), which, combined with local authority training, may deliver better results. Practitioners must also play their part, however.

IEMA and its EIA Quality Mark partners are therefore taking a lead. In 2014, IEMA will produce a report defining how to deliver proportionate EIA that increases its value to all parties.

This project was launched at the 2013 EIA Quality Mark forum and I thank all those who contributed. It is clear that as professionals we must manifest the destiny we want for EIA.

Email j.fothergill@iema.net to contribute.

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