Who is a 'competent' expert?

29th November 2016

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


Rufus Howard

New EU rules require that EIAs are prepared by a competent expert.

In May 2017, the new environmental impact assessment Directive will come into force in the UK and it includes a requirement for an EIA to be prepared by ‘competent experts’. Planning authorities must also have access to sufficient expertise to examine the EIA.

There has been much debate about what these requirements mean in practice. My view is that we can divide competent experts into three groups: topic experts, EIA experts and EIA examiners.

  • A topic expert – let’s call them a chapter author (in an environmental statement) – could be deemed competent if they can show demonstrable expertise in their field. An easy market signal for this would be chartered status with a relevant body, such as a Chartered ecologist writing the ecology chapter. I would envisage this would function in much the same way as we provide credentials for an expert witness.
  • The overall EIA lead expert – let’s call them the environmental statement author – should also be able to demonstrate expertise in their field, the equivalent credential here is the IEMA EIA practitioner register for individuals, and the EIA Quality Mark for organisations.
  • The EIA examiner is perhaps the trickiest classification. Many examiners will not be competent EIA experts but civil servants or planners, for whom review of EIA is one of their tasks, but not their expert profession. However, the bar is lower here beause the requirement in the directive is ‘sufficient expertise’ rather than expert competence. For those performing the role of EIA review and who cannot demonstrate sufficient expertise, authorities will need to turn to EIA practitioners to perform the review on their behalf. Again, the EIA practitioner register and EIA Quality Mark provide a readymade supply of experts to turn to.

More information about the IEMA EIA practitioner register can be found at bit.ly/2f7Q6Ls.

Details about the Quality Mark are at bit.ly/2fZcLr1.


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