Special IEMA report on EIA

16th September 2011

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IEMA publishes new special report into the state of environmental impact assessment practice in the UK

By 2020, more than £150 billion of new infrastructure will have been developed across the UK posing both risks to the environment and significant opportunities for improvement. In the consent process, environmental impact assessment (EIA) acts to ensure the environment is integrated into design.

As previewed in the July issue of the environmentalist, IEMA recently published The state of environmental impact assessment practice in the UK, the latest addition to its special reports series.

This in-depth research was completed and authored by IEMA’s environmental assessment lead, Josh Fothergill, and aims to ensure that EIA continues to play an enhanced role in engaging communities and shaping new development to find the best environmental outcomes.

“In undertaking this research we found that having environment professionals who are passionate about the environment is an integral part of project design,” said Fothergill.

“What became clear is that in the UK EIA is continuing to evolve, and that there is healthy debate as to how this can be best achieved. The report captures this important piece of environmental thought leadership, presenting it in a manner that makes it accessible to anyone interested in delivering a sustainable future.”

The report also reveals that EIA is increasingly having an early influence in helping to shape developments so they avoid negative community and environmental effects.

“However, it is clear that practice is not perfect and work needs to be done to ensure that developers recognise the value that EIA coordinators deliver when truly integrated within the design process,” commented Fothergill.

By establishing a vision for EIA within the report, IEMA has reinforced its leadership role in further improving EIA practice in the UK. IEMA has identified six key areas for action to improve EIA in the UK. These are:

  • a focus on communicating the added-value generated by EIAs;
  • realising the efficiencies of effective EIA coordination;
  • developing new partnerships to enhance the EIA process;
  • listening, communicating and engaging effectively with communities;
  • practitioners actively working together to tackle the difficult issues in EIA; and
  • delivering environmental outcomes that work both now and in the future.

Activities to deliver progress in each of the action areas linked to the vision will be delivered in partnership with key partners, such as those organisations registered to the EIA Quality Mark. In this way, environment professionals involved in EIA will help to deliver more efficient and effective assessments for a more sustainable future.

Many EIA specialists have welcomed the publication of the report.

“With new EIA regulations in England and Scotland, the launch of this report is very timely,” said Topsy Rudd, director of Cascade Consulting.

“It provides an interesting and thought-provoking view of EIA practice in the UK, and challenges all those involved in the process to think about how their work acts to deliver effective community and environmental outcomes as a result of new development.”

Trevor Turpin, director at Nicholas Pearson Associates, said that the report’s advice for maximising the future benefits to be gained from EIA was particularly welcome.

“This is an excellent and thorough report which should be read by all in the development process if EIA is to continue to make a positive and effective contribution to planning,” he said.

“It provides an easily accessible resource for those to whom the EIA process may be new, as well as those who might have thought that the environment was no longer an issue.”

IEMA members and other interested parties can download a free pdf of the full report and its appendices. Hard copy versions are on sale, priced at £50 (plus postage and packing), from the IEMA publications shop.

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