Talking about environmental impact assessment

6th April 2017

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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Planning ,
  • Management


Leigh Phillips

Building new partnerships is more important than ever.

Last month I hosted a symposium on environmental impact assessment (EIA) at the University of Kent. More than 50 academics and practitioners attended.

Three main topics were debated:

  • EIA as a design tool – many assessments are applied too late in the project cycle and to effect change they need to be embedded at the design stage. How can this be achieved?
  • Defining competent experts – the 2014 amendment to the EIA Directive requires assessments to be conducted by ‘competent experts’. Who are they and how do we recognise them and verify their competence?
  • Offsetting – is biodiversity offsetting relevant to a project? Does it work? Offsetting in conjunction with climate change policy.

Each topic was introduced by an experienced professional before it was opened for debate. At the end of the day, I was struck that there is much more work needed on integrating EIA and strategic environmental assessment with the emerging discourses on natural capital, environmental economics, ecosystem services, habitat banking, landscape scale conservation, green and blue corridors, and rewilding.

The purpose of the event was to build partnerships and share knowledge between impact assessment academics and practitioners from industry. The discussions revealed that there is much to be gained from closer interaction and collaboration with the academic community. It also highlighted significant career opportunities in impact assessment for people considering leaving academia.

In the context of Brexit and the shadow of potentially leaving the European EIA community, collaboration is essential between academics and practitioners in industry, government and non-governmental organisations. This wider multidisciplinary group from across all sectors needs to act as a united community to ensure that the vital environmental safeguards that we have worked hard to secure over many decades are not removed or reduced by the UK government in the post-Brexit era.


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