Wales consults on amended EIA directive

24th August 2016


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

The Welsh government has published a consultation on transposing new European regulations on environmental impact assessment (EIA) into law.

The EIA Directive was amended in 2014 to place greater emphasis on challenges that have emerged since the original rules came into force around 25 years ago, such as resource efficiency, climate change, human health and disaster prevention. There are also new requirements on monitoring and enforcement.

The UK remains under obligation to transpose EU directives until it has formally left the EU and has a deadline of May 2017 for transposing the amended EIA directive.

The Welsh proposals are similar to those set out by the Scottish government in a consultation launched two weeks ago.

One of the key amendments is the environmental statement (ES) outlining potential impact of a proposed development is prepared by ‘competent experts’. The Welsh government proposes giving responsibility for ensuring the competence of the EIA practitioner to planning authorities.

The consultation states: ‘The ES must be prepared by persons who by virtue of their qualifications or experience have in the opinion of the competent authority sufficient expertise to ensure the completeness and quality of the ES.’

The Welsh government believes that most decision makers have sufficient expertise in their planning teams to examine the ES, according to the consultation document. Planning authorities will also be able to obtain advice from statutory consultees, including Natural Resources Wales, it states.

This goes further than the Scottish government, which has not proposed placing responsibility for ensuring competence with any particular body.

Josh Fothergill, IEMA policy and engagement lead, said the Welsh approach was ‘a little questionable’. ‘The directive text appears to place responsibility for ES author competence on the developer not the competent authority. If the planning authority disagrees on the ES author’s competence what happens legally?’ he asked.

He also pointed out that planning authorities are not always well set up to understand EIA. Earlier this year, the Welsh government funded training on EIA scoping for every planning authority in Wales, he said.

The amended directive also suggests changing the terminology from an ES to ‘EIA report’. Wales wants to retain ES, whereas Scotland is proposing to adopt the EU term, which would result in documents in the UK having different names.

The communities department (DCLG) has not yet published its proposals for transposing the directive into English law. Consultations have to be signed off by ministers before publication and the department has a new ministerial team following the vote to leave the EU, with former business secretary Sajid Javid appointed secretary of state for communities and local government. A spokesperson for the DCLG said: ‘We will announce the consultation in due course.’

IEMA is scheduling workshops for members on both the Scottish and Welsh consultations.

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