With over a year since the initial consultation, the 2011 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations finally emerged recently in England, and have been in effect since August. The new regulations completely consolidate the 1999 EIA Regulations and their many amendments, so it is now easier to understand the rules for assessing the impacts of major development projects on the environment.
There are several important changes to note, which will affect how some developments are assessed in an EIA, and even whether they require EIA in the first place, relating to screening opinions, reserved matters, changes and extensions to developments, and new types of development requiring EIA:
1. Anyone can now ask the Secretary of State whether a specific project will require EIA. Previously, only the developer could ask for a ‘screening direction’. This effectively introduces a new ‘third party right of challenge’.
2. The Secretary of State can also now direct that any development can require EIA, even if it does not meet the usual criteria.
3. Changes or extensions to existing developments may now require EIA if the development as a whole, as changed or extended, may have significant adverse environmental effects. If EIA is required, it must cover the effects of the whole of the development, not just the change or extension.
4. When a local council or the Secretary of State decides that EIA is not required for a project, the reasons need to be clearly and precisely explained.
5. When EIA is required for ‘subsequent applications’ (e.g. reserved matters applications), if the previous Environmental Statement is considered inadequate or incomplete, the new regulations require the local authority to request ‘further information’ to update and complete it (instead of requiring a new ES). However, when the previous ES is adequate, there is now no need to consult on it again.
6. Additional types of development are listed as projects that may require EIA, namely carbon capture and geological storage facilities, and transportation pipelines.
We advise on the need for EIA (screening) for any development project, the issues and depth of study that an EIA should cover (scoping) and manage and coordinate the EIA process. Our highly experienced professional team offers a high quality EIA service, recognised by IEMA as worthy of their EIA Quality Mark. We also provide an ES review service for planning authorities and communities to review the quality of a submitted ES against good practice and legal standards.