Does my development need an Environmental Impact Assessment?

Environmental Impact Assessment

Green issues have never been higher on the government’s agenda and developers with planning proposals that have environmental implications should be aware of Environmental Impact Assessment. Paul Walton, a director of PWA Planning, explains why.

What is Environmental Impact Assessment and why is it necessary?

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is designed to safeguard the environment by providing local planning authorities with a detailed evaluation of a project that is likely to have a major effect on the environment.

This enables planning authorities to be fully aware of the broader environmental picture when they decide whether to grant planning permission.

EIA also ensures local community members are alerted at an early stage and can play a full and informed role in the decision making process.

What types of development need an EIA?

Government regulations set out a procedure for identifying development projects that should be subject to EIA, as well as for assessing, consulting and reaching a decision on relevant proposals.

EIA is always required by developments covered by Schedule 1 to the 2011 EIA Regulations. These are usually large-scale projects or schemes with the highest level of potential environmental impact, for example airports, oil refineries and motorways.

Schedule 2 to the 2011 EIA Regulations sets out types of development that may require assessment. In practice this hinges on whether a project is likely to have significant environmental consequences due to factors such as size, activity and location. Schedule 2 developments include, for example, business parks, wind turbines, industrial projects, sports stadia, golf courses, and large housing schemes.

How do you know if you need an EIA?

Developers can ask their local council for a formal ‘screening opinion’ confirming whether their project requires EIA. Where EIA is necessary, developers can also ask the council for a ‘scoping opinion’. This specifies the issues that must be included in the assessment.

If Environmental Impact Assessment is likely to be required, developers must produce an Environmental Statement (ES) to support their planning application. Failure to do so can cause serious delays in the application process, or result in the eventual decision being legally challenged.

This is a technically complex and potentially costly area of planning legislation and it is important for developers to take expert professional advice at an early stage.

Paul Walton is a director of Preston-based planning consultancy PWA Planning. The practice has specific expertise in conducting Environmental Impact Assessments and preparing and submitting Environmental Statements as part of the planning process.

Recent Environmental Impact Assessments conducted by the Lancashire planning consultants, include for the proposed £100m Eco Park in Gloucestershire and a mixed-use sports development, including 12,000 seater stadium, at Lincolnshire Lakes, Scunthorpe.

For further advice on Environmental Impact Assessments and Environmental Statements, call Paul on 01772 369669.