Pull yourself together - simplifying the production of an environmental statement

13th August 2015


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IEMA

Nathan Matta, associate director at Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP), focuses on ways to simplify the production of an environmental statement (ES).

As many EIA co-ordinators will testify to, one of the most time-consuming and frustrating aspects of finalising an environmental statement (ES) is ensuring consistency in the content and layout of technical chapters.

The last thing a co-ordinator wants to do having spent many hours ensuring an ES is robust is to spend a similar amount of time on tasks such as formatting and editing.

In order to remedy this problem and make the process easier, not to mention more efficient and cost-effective for co-consultants and clients, NLP has spent the last few years fine-tuning consultant EIA briefing packs and developing a suite of word document templates for ES chapters.

This is becoming a more common approach among companies who specialise in the co-ordination of EIAs, however, the positive feedback NLP has received suggests that whilst it is certainly a well-considered approach it is perhaps not something adopted by all. The inclusion of the tasks and approaches highlighted below, as part of the EIA process, can in ensure significant budget and time savings.

The optimum approach to the start of the EIA process is to hold an EIA start-up meeting. At this meeting, architects can present the proposed scheme to all consultants, technical issues can be identified and discussed early in the process, contacts can be shared particularly where there are likely to be interactions between consultants’ topic areas, and even something as simple as agreeing how to reference the site and the development can be agreed.

The consultant briefing pack referred to earlier in this article is a note issued on or before this meeting to assist in the preparation of the EIA and should incorporate as far as possible the following elements:

  • An assessment of key issues relevant to the EIA which may include known previous work; other relevant schemes including those to be considered as part of the cumulative impacts and consultation feedback to date.
  • A description of the development and the site and its surroundings.
  • The scope of the ES highlighting chapter titles and responsibilities.
  • The structure and format of the document explaining how the ES is to be split and providing a structure for each chapter to ensure consistency in approach and assessment.
  • Guidance on formatting, styles and the individual template provided to each consultant.
  • Details of the standard terminology to be used in the ES, which may need to be adapted / transcribed from the relevant guidance to the consultants’ technical area.
  • Details in respect of consultation and scoping, highlighting the importance of finalising the scope of individual inputs with the appropriate consultation bodies.
  • A timetable of key dates including the issuing of draft chapters.
  • An EIA team contact list.

In order to reduce the need for editing and formatting prior to submission, each consultant is provided with an individual template for each chapter of the ES. Each chapter is already set up with standard section headings. The templates ensure consistency over details such as font size; use of headings; and the approach to be taken to plans, figures, tables and appendices.

The EIA co-ordinator should keep the team updated throughout the EIA process. Regular briefing notes issued simultaneously to the whole team highlighting issues such as scheme alterations and changes to legislation is an ideal way of doing this and avoids the team having to self-brief.

Internally, at the conclusion of each project we review the approach taken and consider its effectiveness. This has helped us to develop positively our approach to the EIA co-ordination role.

Clearly there are many other aspects of an EIA that can cause delays but the use of the above techniques can help to ensure that at least the unenviable editing role faced by EIA co-ordinators does not become one of these.

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