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Environmental impact assessments

Environmental Impact Assessments

 Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) have been in existence for some 35 years in the USA with EIA legislation and in the UK since 1988. The European Directive 85/337/EEC highlighted the effect of development projects on the environment and the need to have a process to assess this, this Directive was adopted in the UK (in 1988).

The European Council Directive 85/337/EEC was amended by Council Directive 97/11/EC(1) stating the purpose of EIA as ‘providing the competent authorities with relevant information to enable them to take a decision on a specific project in full knowledge of the project’s likely significant impact on the environment’.

The UK response to the 97 Directive is The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 that came into force on the 14th March 1999.
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) has increasingly become mandatory to predict the impact on the whole environment from planning and construction processes.

Bell, S and McGillivary, D. 2006, give their definition of EIA:
“A formal procedure for decision-makers to gather environmental information about projects, and for this information to be taken into account in decision-making.”

There are nine potential processes of EIA:
1.Screening – to decide if and at what level EIA should be applied
2.Scoping – to identify the important issues and prepare terms of reference
3.Impact Analysis – to predict the effects of a proposal and evaluate their significance
4.Mitigation – to establish measures to prevent, reduce or compensate for impacts
5.Reporting – to prepare the information necessary for decision-making
6.Review – to check the quality of the EIA report
7.Decision-making – to approve or reject the proposal and set conditions
8.Follow up – monitor, manage and audit impacts of project implementation
9.Public Involvement – to inform and consult with stakeholders

The completed report is called an Environmental Statement (ES) - it is this that is submitted with a planning application.

When are EIA's required?

To determine if an EIA is required the 1999 regulations have to be consulted - There are schedules in the back of the regulations that have descriptions of developments. Schedule 1 developments require a mandatory EIA, where as Schedule 2 has descriptions of developments and applicable thresholds and criteria to determine if an EIA is required. Schedule 3 has selection criteria for screening schedule 2 developments.

In brief:
Developments in schedule 1 - EIA mandatory.
Developments in schedule 2 - EIA possible depending on development and on selection criteria in Schedule 3.

The link here will direct you to the regulations and schedules:

Circular 02/99: Environmental impact assessment
Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2007
The new circular and EIA Guide to Good Practice and Procedure has been delayed but will be available shortly.

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