The 2017 EIA regulations – A marine consultant’s view

7th August 2018

Web shipping shutterstock 739896253

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Marine ,
  • Environmental Impact Assessment ,
  • Legislation



Jamie Oaten and Colin Scott examine the amended Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and how it relates to marine consultancy.

On 16 May 2017, the new amended Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2014/52/EU) was implemented into UK law. A range of useful reviews about the changes were also released (1, 2, 3).

The screening process now requires more information to be submitted (including information about significant effects and proposed mitigation measures). This requirement seeks to ‘front-load’ the assessment process, encouraging preparation of ‘mini assessments’ and consideration of mitigation early on – providing an opportunity to avoid unnecessary EIA procedures. However, this is nothing new, as UK practice already provides such information at screening (and scoping). This is inherently valuable to manage the EIA and avoid an unnecessarily protracted EIA process based on poor early understanding and risk-averse approaches (4). Therefore, this change may not have tangible impacts on established approaches (5). In the marine environment, it can often be difficult to verify the absence of significant effects at a screening stage, and developers are not always able to commit to designs or construction methods at this early stage. One solution is to carefully define the limits within which a development will reside, in order to ensure the validity of screening (and scoping) opinions throughout the EIA process.

New environmental factors to be considered as part of EIA include human health, climate, biodiversity and vulnerability to risks of major accidents and disasters. The introduction of new topics has been the clearest change affecting marine EIAs. IEMA has produced guidance and information on human health in EIA (6), climate change adaptation and resilience (7), and greenhouse gas emissions (8). The role that coastal habitats have in human health and climate regulations is also being more clearly recognised.

Environmental Statements (ESs) must be produced by ‘competent experts/persons’, and the authority must ensure ‘sufficient expertise’ for review. A competent expert or person has not been defined in the new EIA regulations; this may only be decided once it is disputed. It seems generally accepted that membership and accreditation by professional environmental organisations will satisfy this criterion. ABPmer is a registrant of the IEMA EIA Quality Mark scheme.

Authorities must coordinate EIAs with Habitat Regulations Assessments (HRAs) where a development is subject to both the EIA Directive and Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). The linking of EIA requirements and HRA information needs was already undertaken as good practice before the new EIA Regulations were implemented – it has long been recognised that it makes no sense to duplicate the ecological information that is needed for both assessment processes. A well-established practice, therefore, is to collate the information needed for HRAs (or Shadow Appropriate Assessments) in the form of ‘signposting documents’ that refer the reader to the location in the ES where the necessary information can be found. This amendment has not affected practice, but there is a need to be careful about distinctive considerations (such as definitions of likely significance or references to Conservation Objectives) that apply to HRA processes.

Where an EIA development is consented to, authorities can consider imposing monitoring measures. It is stated that monitoring should be proportionate to the nature, size and effects of the development, and can use existing monitoring arrangements. Planning conditions often stipulate, where necessary, that post-consent monitoring should be undertaken. This will largely satisfy this requirement; in the marine environment, monitoring is a crucial component of adaptively managing project implementation (best practice to assure absences of significant effects).

While the new EIA Regulations have been in force for a year, it is still unclear whether they are substantially affecting practice. Material changes in the way EIA is undertaken in marine consultancy are perhaps limited, as new requirements in the EIA Regulations are already done as part of good practice.

The marine environment will always present distinct challenges when it comes to determining significant effects with certainty because of the particularly complex and spatially-extensive nature of some key effects (especially for ecological features).

The new regulations and the guidance that has come with them provide some useful clarifications to the process. It is important, though, to continue developing these processes and to learn from research and good practice to make EIAs increasingly efficient and less burdensome for regulators and developers.


  6. Primer on Health in UK EIA Doc V11.pdf
  7. (1).pdf

Jamie Oaten is an environmental consultant at ABPmer

Colin Scott is an associate and environmental consultant at ABPmer


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

New guidance maps out journey to digital environmental assessment

IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network is delighted to have published A Roadmap to Digital Environmental Assessment.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Lisa Pool on how IEMA is shaping a sustainable future with impact assessment

27th November 2023

Read more

IEMA responded in September to the UK government’s consultation on the details of the operational reforms it is looking to make to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) consenting process as put forward in the NSIP reform action plan (February 2023).

24th November 2023

Read more

Members of IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network Steering Group have published the 17th edition of the Impact Assessment Outlook Journal, which provides a series of thought pieces on the policy and practice of habitats regulations assessment (HRA).

26th September 2023

Read more

In July, we published the long-awaited update and replacement of one of IEMA’s first published impact assessment guidance documents from 1993, Guidelines for the Environmental Assessment of Road Traffic.

1st August 2023

Read more

Are we losing sight of its intended purpose and what does the future hold for EIA? Jo Beech, Tiziana Bartolini and Jessamy Funnell report.

15th June 2023

Read more

Luke Barrows and Alfie Byron-Grange look at the barriers to adoption of digital environmental impacts assessments

1st June 2023

Read more

Susan Evans and Helen North consider how Environmental Statements can be more accessible and understandable

1st June 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close