The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLGC) has published IEMA’s written evidence to its inquiry into the future of the planning system in England.

The inquiry is scrutinising the Government’s proposals for planning reform set out in last year’s ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper. The stated aims of the white paper were to propose ‘reforms of the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.’

The purpose of the HCLGC’s inquiry is to ‘examine how well the proposed reforms would support the Government’s wider building strategy’ and ‘how well the new proposals protect existing buildings or localities and provide mechanisms for local engagement in the planning system’.

IEMA is the largest professional body for environmental practitioners in the UK and worldwide with nearly 17,000 members. IEMA is an authoritative voice on impact assessment and for the past 30 years has been at the forefront of reform, including how the discipline fits into the wider planning system.

The written evidence that we gave to the HCLGC drew on our earlier response to the Government’s consultation on its white paper.

Quite a bit of the evidence that has gone into the Committee’s inquiry has been focused on proposed changes to overarching planning processes and the proposals to move to more zonal-based planning. However, the Government’s white paper also proposed significant reforms to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Sustainability Appraisal and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) regime.

As the leading professional institute for impact assessment, our evidence centred more on this aspect of the planning system reforms. While we agree with the need for impact assessment reform, a quicker and simpler system must not reduce the existing protection impact assessment provides to valued assets and people.

IEMA’s key recommendations to the inquiry were that impact assessment reforms should focus on the following priorities:

  • Providing greater governance on ‘scoping’ non-EIA development and mandating the use of Environmental Management Plans (EMPs).
  • That clear requirements and standards for EIA and SEA should be published.
  • Ensuring that EMPs are central to the EIA process and provide certainty on implementation, monitoring and enforcement.
  • That the role of a national EIA unit for screening and scoping is appraised.
  • Embracing innovation and digital EIA.
  • Recognition of the importance of using competent professionals to undertake EIA and SEA.

Read our submission to the HCLGC here.

Photo of Dr Rufus Howard IEMA
Rufus Howard

Dr. Howard is a leading professional in environmental impact assessment and sustainability with 20 years of experience across public, private and not-for-profit organisations. A Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and Chartered Environmentalist, Rufus sits on strategic advisory boards at; the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), the Advanced Research and Innovation in Environmental Science (ARIES) NERC Doctoral Training Programme, and the Kent Nature Partnership. Dr Howard currently holds positions as Policy and Engagement Lead for IEMA, Director and Founder of Greenfriars, and Environmental and Social Governance Advisor at the International Finance Corporation.