IEMA member and IA Steering Group Chair David Hoare, Associate Director at WSP provides an update for the new year, including a new 'QIA' feature, bringing insights from the IA steering group on pertinent topics.

Welcome to the first IA Steering Group update of 2021.

The end of 2020 saw four of our members stepping down, having completed their 3 years’ service.

Peter George stepped down from his role as Chair, having led the group through some challenging times with great passion. Josh Fothergill, a stalwart of the group over the years, provided many significant contributions and considerable support to members. Becky McLean provided fantastic knowledge and innovation to the group, and Karema Randall provided a hugely valuable insight from a regulator perspective. On behalf of IEMA, the IA Steering Group and members of the IA Network, I would like to express my sincere thanks to them all for their support and friendship. As with previous members of the group who have also stepped down since the group was formed in 2015, I hope they will continue to be involved in the exciting plans we have for this year and beyond.

Following a formal application process, we give a warm welcome to five new members. Stephanie Ball from Highways England, Urmila Jha Thakur from Liverpool University, Stefan Boss from Stantec, Lewis Jenkins from Arcadis and Owen Cahill from MKO. Their diverse backgrounds will help the group grow from strength to strength.

Although our ability to organise face to face events is limited at this present time, we have a bumper programme of webinars, Outlook Journals and guidance documents already lined up for 2021. Please regularly check the IEMA website for updates.

However, the best way to ensure you’re kept abreast of all IA Steering Group activities is to join the IA Network. As an IEMA member, joining the IA Network is quick, easy and free. Just let us know that you want to join and we’ll update your record. Once you join, you’ll receive regular IA Network news, including links to the latest articles and guidance, and opportunities to get involved in Network groups, tasks and activities.

This month sees the commencement of one of our new ideas for 2021 - a regular feature within the IEMA TRANSFORM magazine called ‘QIA’. In each issue, we will provide answers to a selection questions that were posed by participants during our ‘EIA Back to Basics’ webinar held last year, which set a new record with more than 700 people attending.

Wishing all IEMA members and their loved ones a Happy New Year.

David Hoare, Associate Director at WSP
IA Steering Group Chair

QIA

Q. If you are submitting a Town and Country Planning Act application with a red line boundary, does the EIA follow the same red line boundary, or does it generally go wider to capture potential impacts?

A. The ‘red line boundary’, or ‘planning application boundary’, should comprise all temporary and permanent land required to construct and operate the development in question. However, potential impacts will often extend beyond the red line boundary.

The study area(s) adopted for the EIA will vary depending on the nature of the development, the location of the development, the proximity of sensitive receptors to the development and the nature and extent of those sensitive receptors. Study areas may also differ depending on the factor being assessed. Furthermore, the assessment of a single factor may comprise different study areas for different receptors.

For example, it may be appropriate for the study area for land and soils to be defined by the red line boundary if effects upon land and soils beyond the red line boundary are unlikely to occur. Conversely, the study area for visual effects may extend beyond the red line boundary (commonly referred to as the ‘Zone of Visual Influence’). For biodiversity, different study areas (and survey areas) may apply to different habitats and species.

Advice on study areas to apply in EIA can be found in published guidance, but the application of a study area can also be based on professional judgement. However, should the latter be the case, justification for the extent of the study area being applied should be provided within the Environmental Statement or Environmental Report.

Q. Are EIA reports (including initial scoping ins & outs) in the public domain? Is it possible to access some of these online?

A. Yes. Information to Support a Scoping Opinion Request (where submitted), as well as the opinion received, are normally published on the relevant local planning authority’s planning portal. The same applies to Environmental Statements. The easiest way to access them is to search the relevant planning portal using the planning application reference number.

Applicants also often publish such documents online, either on their company website or on websites specifically created for the development in question.

The Planning Inspectorate also publishes such documents on its website for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects considered under the Planning Act 2008 (as amended) and subject to a Development Consent Order.

Q. I guess we need to conclude no significant effects for any environmental factor, once mitigation is in place - or else we won’t get approval?

A. No. EIA is a means of drawing together, in a systematic way, an assessment of a project’s likely significant environmental effects. One of the purposes of EIA is to inform the design of a development so that likely significant environmental effects can be effectively ‘designed out’. However, where this is not possible, then additional mitigation can be proposed to avoid, prevent, reduce or, if possible, offset any identified significant adverse effects on the environment.

However, despite the measures outlined above, there will be occasions where the conclusion of likely significant environmental effects on a particular sensitive receptor or receptors is unavoidable. Where this occurs, it should be reported truthfully and honestly. The responsibility will then lie with the relevant determining authority to consider both the positives and negatives of the development against relevant planning policy and the local, regional and/or national need for the development.

Photo of David Hoare
David Hoare

David Hoare is a Chartered Environmentalist with over 19 years' experience in environmental consultancy. His experience relates to the environmental assessment and management of a wide range of projects including wind farms, pipelines, major infrastructure projects (motorway, trunk road and local authority road schemes in Wales, England and Scotland), gas storage facilities and mixed-use developments.