Environmental Impact Assessments

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

What is an EIA?

EIA is a process which is legally required to be undertaken for new development proposals that are likely to have significant environmental effects. Where an authority believes that a proposal could have a significant impact, it will require an EIA to be submitted alongside the planning application.

When is an EIA required?

An EIA may be required to accompany applications for detailed planning permission, outline planning permission and other types of planning application such as applications to carry out development without complying with a condition, or some types of appeals against enforcement notices. Whether or not an EIA is required depends on various factors including the nature of the proposal, the size of the site, the potential for the proposal to have significant environmental effects, and the sensitivity of the environment which could be affected.

Schedule 1 Development – Mandatory Cases

An EIA is always required for types of proposal classified as 'Schedule 1 Development'. These are proposals which are most obviously likely to have adverse environmental effects, and where the proposal is over a certain size or production output threshold. Examples include large crude oil refineries, long distance roads and railways, large airports, certain types of large industrial facilities, large scale pig or poultry production, large quarries, and power stations.

Schedule 2 Development – Conditional Cases

If a development type is listed in Schedule 2 of the regulations, an EIA might be required, depending on the likelihood of significant environmental effects arising. Many medium or large scale development projects over certain size thresholds (for example, non-residential sites of 1ha or where 150 or more houses are proposed) fall within the scope of Schedule 2 including urban industrial estates; urban redevelopment projects; intensive agricultural activity; smaller quarries; wind farms and a wide range of industrial uses.

What is EIA Screening?

Many, if not most, medium or large scale development projects fall within Schedule 2 of the regulations and so could potentially require an EIA.  Local authorities are required, by law, to check whether planning applications they receive should be accompanied by an EIA.  If the need for an EIA is only identified once an application is submitted, this could be extremely costly to the applicant, not only financially but also in terms of delay.

To avoid this, potential applications can volunteer to submit a formal request to the local authority at an early stage in order to get a definitive answer as to whether an EIA is required. dha environment can advise clients on the likelihood of a project requiring an EIA, and regularly draft and submit EIA screening requests. These are most commonly submitted when an applicant believes that an EIA won’t be required, but they wish to have formal confirmation to avoid delays and additional cost at a later stage.

What is EIA Scoping?

If an EIA is required, EIA scoping is a voluntary but highly recommended process to agree the scope of the EIA, which can reduce the potential for later delays.  The scoping process was designed to focus the EIA process on the key issues for a particular project, to avoid all parties wasting time, money and effort investigating issues which are unlikely to be significant.  
Scoping usually takes the form of a report being submitted to the local authority setting out the range of topics believed by the developer to be significant.  The report usually also describes the level and type of information to be considered in relation to each topic, so that agreement can be reached with relevant parties about the quality of information to be submitted.  The local authority will then consult statutory consultees such as English Heritage and Natural England before issuing their formal Scoping Opinion. dha environment can advise on all aspects of EIA scoping.

What is an Environmental Statement (ES)?

This is the document submitted with the planning application which sets out the EIA process which has been undertaken and summarises its findings. This enables the local authority and interested parties to understand the environmental effects of a proposal and whether any mitigation measures can be undertaken to reduce or remove adverse effects.
dha environment is experienced at managing the EIA process, working with in-house and external specialist advisors to produce a comprehensive and comprehensible Environmental Statement. In each case we also fulfil the legal requirement to produce a Non-Technical Summary, providing a short summary of the ES, designed as an accessible document to be easily understood and digested by members of the public.

Further Advice

EIA issues can often be the subject of legal challenge.  There have been several high profile cases in recent years where opponents have sought judicial review of decisions to grant planning permission by arguing that EIA processes have not been carried out properly. If your development is of a size or nature where an EIA might be required, it is essential that this issue is considered properly from the outset.

If you want to know more, please get in touch by calling us on 01622 776226 or emailing us at info@dhaplanning.co.uk

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