Impact Assessment (IA) is an environment and sustainability discipline. Its purpose is to ensure that environmental and social issues are identified and can be factored into the decision-making processes. At its best, IA helps shape policies, plans, design and consenting such that social value to communities and economic value to investors are both met, without eroding biodiversity and natural capital and without pushing beyond environmental limits. IEMA’s IA Policy lead Dr Rufus Howard provides an update on the vital and transformative work the Network and each Working Group is doing and how you can get involved.

IEMA’s vision is to ensure that IA is widely recognised as supporting better decision-making, positively influencing development outcomes and providing lasting benefits to the environment, communities and the economy. As a result IEMA and the Impact Assessment Network Steering Group (IASG) launched a new 5-year Impact Assessment Strategy in 2019 with the following four key objectives:

1. Promote professional standards and best practice and showcase the benefits of IA to deliver positive outcomes for the environment and society

2. Develop guidance and training and promote knowledge sharing and collaboration to provide practitioners with the skills and knowledge to deliver effective and proportionate IA

3. Improve the effectiveness of IA through innovation in practice and advocating for effective policy and regulations

4. Encourage and develop the careers of IA professionals so that there is a vibrant supply of qualified practitioners to meet the needs of the future of IA.

Working Groups

In addition to the Steering Group the IA Network has a number of subgroups and special working groups on specific areas and themed issues. The groups’ activities vary from the production of guidance to the development and discussion of best practice. Some groups are longstanding, whilst others disband once a particular milestone, such as the publication of a guidance note, is achieved. There are currently eleven working groups which are detailed below.

Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation

The CCRA group has mainly been concerned with the production of the second edition of the IEMA Environmental Impact Assessment Guide to Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation published this year. The aim of the update was to provide more detailed guidance for practitioners, including case studies of examples of climate change resilience and adaptation in EIA to date. The original guidance in 2015 was produced after the EU EIA Directive amending EIA requirements was approved, but before this was implemented into UK law (in May 2017). Now that this has been transposed into UK EIA Regs, the revised guidance draws on practice based on a growing body of work on the inclusion of climate change resilience and adaptation in EIA.

Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment

The Chartered Institute of Archaeologists (CIfA), The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and IEMA have been working together on new guidelines for cultural heritage impact assessment. The three authors alongside other professionals have formed a project Advisory Panel and the project was launched in April 2017. Cultural Heritage is a broad topic and the guidelines will seek to address elements of the historic environment that have cultural heritage significance. The scope will be UK wide and the guidelines will therefore seek to demonstrate relevance both to the heritage and regulatory contexts in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The primary purpose of the guidelines will be to show how the broad principles and key assessment requirements of the impact assessment process apply to cultural heritage issues throughout the project lifecycle.

Determining Significance

The determination of significance within EIA is fundamental to determining the requirement, breadth and scope of EIA and is the primary method for communicating information related to environmental effects. However, there is a wealth of material documenting inconsistencies and confusion in determining significance and the impact that this has on EIA and decision making.

To address these issues the working group explore some key themes of significance and make recommendations on how improvement and consistency could help. Key themes being explored include formulaic use of matrices; the lack of expert evaluation; variance in terminology and inconsistent guidance. The working group is led by Andy Rickets, Director and Head of EIA at Turley.

Digital Impact Assessment

This is an established group seeking to promote the use of digital technology and approaches within Impact Assessment. In March 2020 this group published the Digital Impact Assessment Primer to set out current thinking on the opportunities and challenges. This was followed in May 2020 by an IEMA Outlook Journal on Digital Impact Assessment in practice, with an accompanying microsite. The working group is led by Tom Gold, Senior Consultant at WSP.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Impact Assessment

The GHG group produced IEMA Environmental Impact Assessment Guide to Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Assessing their Significance which was published in 2017. Similar to the Climate Resilience and Adaptation guide, the GHG guidance was published around the same time that the 2017 EIA regulations became UK law (in May 2017). Now that practice has been operating under the new regulations for a few years, the group is working on a revision of the guidance drawing on current best practice and developments in climate change policy. The working group is led by George Vergoulas at Arup.

Health in Impact Assessment

Members of IEMA and the Faculty of Public Health have been developing further guidance for the future assessment of Health within EIA. This is developing the key themes and questions broached in the Health in Environmental Impact Assessment, a Primer for a Proportionate Approach prepared by IEMA and the Faculty of Public Health. Future guidance will aim to set out a consistent approach to the screening, scoping and subsequent assessment of health within EIA to ensure that health impacts are considered in an appropriate and proportionate manner that meets the requirements of the EIA Regulations, 2017. The IEMA group have also contributed to recent Public Health England guidance on HIA and working group lead Joanna Bagley has also guest edited an Outlook Journal on Health in EIA.

Materials and Waste

IEMA has worked with a number of industry leaders to develop guidance and recommendations for EIA practitioners and other stakeholders concerned with the assessment of the impacts and effects of materials, resources and waste on the environment. The guidance was published in April 2020 and can be found in the list below to download. The main aim of the document is to provide initial guidance on the key terms, concepts and considerations for assessing the impacts and effects of materials and waste on the environment, as part of the EIA process. It covers screening, scoping, consultation, assessment, and subsequent reporting and monitoring.

Whilst the task-finish group that developed the guidance is no longer ‘live’, please contact the Lead Author: [email protected] for more information on the content or its application

Post consent and construction phase environmental performance

IEMA have teamed up with the Association of Environmental Clerk of Works to deliver a working group that aims to improve environmental management performance in the post-consent and construction phase of developments. The group seeks to identify opportunities for improvement in environmental management practices and processes currently used in the delivery process, and to develop new approaches to enable positive, progressive change to the industry’s current culture. The group invites motivated and experienced stakeholders from all perspectives of the delivery cycle, and endeavours to educate, lobby and influence policy in key areas including construction phase environmental management, procurement, enforcement and performance monitoring.

Ultimately, the group seeks to develop a feedback loop into the pre-consent environmental planning process, bringing about more meaningful, constructible – and therefore more widely accepted and adopted – environmental management practices that perform effectively for all stakeholders. Being an extremely complex topic and scope, the group welcomes any offers of support from those with a keen interest in this field.

Soils and Land in EIA

This is a new working group formed in 2020 to develop new guidance on land and soils in EIA. The scope of this work aims to cover the effects of development on all soil functions within terrestrial ecosystems services, including the Natural Capital implications. Practitioners and others with relevant experience are invited to contribute towards this initiative.

Traffic and Transport EIA

A Traffic and Transport subgroup has commenced work to update key elements of the 1993 Guidelines for the Environmental Assessment of Road Traffic working in partnership with key stakeholders. As part of this project, the group has been compiling a list of new research on transport impacts.

Impact Assessment Outlook Journal

One of the key out-workings of the IA Network is professional guidance provided via the Impact Assessment Outlook Journal, which is published quarterly and contains expert articles on IA. This is a UK practice series offering thought pieces contributed by IEMA EIA Quality Mark registrants and presented as a thought-provoking read covering vital aspects of UK EIA practice. It showcases fresh ideas on key topics and offers new perspectives on how you can push forward the practice of IA in your own organisation. Find out more here.

Existing IA Guidance available for members

A key role of the IA Network is the development of guidance and best practice. Available documents and highlights include the UK’s first Proportionate EIA Summit, in spring 2016, and launching the world’s first national Proportionate EIA Strategy in July 2017. Other notable documents include:

- 1993 Guidelines for the Assessment of Road and Traffic

- 1995 Guidelines for Visual Impact Assessment

- 1995 Guidelines for Baseline Ecological Assessment

- 2002 Guidelines for Visual Impact Assessment 2nd Edition

- 2004 Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment

- 2011 Special Report on the State of EIA in the UK

- 2013 Guidelines for Visual Impact Assessment 3rd Edition

- 2014 Guidelines for Environmental Noise Impact Assessment

- 2015 EIA Guide to Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience

- 2015 EIA Guide to Shaping Better Quality Development

- 2016 EIA Guide to Delivering Better Quality Development

- 2017 EIA Guide to Assessing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Assessing their Significance

- 2017 Health in Environmental Impact Assessment: A Primer

- 2017 Delivering Proportionate EIA Strategy

- 2020 EIA Guide to Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience 2nd Edition

- 2020 EIA Guide to Materials and Waste in EIA

- 2020 Digital Impact Assessment: A Primer

- 2020 EIA Guide to Major Accidents and Disasters (Coming September 2020)

Our impactful Networks are all about members. Each one is a place for members to show their passion, connect with others and collaborate to take control of the agenda.

The Networks focus on topics that really resonate with members – from regional issues to global concerns. They give members the space to work together to discuss, debate, influence decisions and share learning. As the Networks gather increased momentum, the topics and issues they address will broaden to fully reflect the true breadth of the Environment and Sustainability Profession.

If you are an IEMA member and would like to join the IA network or get involved with any of the working groups listed above- click here.

If you are not an IEMA member, but would like to learn more about our IA network and working groups- click here.

Photo of Rufus howard
Rufus Howard

Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA, IEMA

Dr Howard is the policy and engagement lead for Impact Assessment at IEMA and a leading professional in EIA, with two decades of international experience across renewable energy and major infrastructure.


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