The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in England has completed its consultation on the implementation of the new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2014/52/EU). This Directive will be implemented on 16th May 2017. The new EIA Directive is likely to mean significant changes for developers, although applications can be carried out under the current Directive if action is taken before 16 May 2017. The consultation proposed to implement the changes through amended Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (2017).
There have been no proposed changes to the Schedule 2 thresholds or criteria requiring EIA. However, the following changes may affect planning applications.
The term “Environmental Statement” has been replaced in the new Directive by “EIA report”, however the term “Environmental Statement” (ES) will also be retained. It is likely that requests for a screening opinion will require some level of environmental statement which will outline the proposed mitigation in order to demonstrate that the project will not have any likely significant effects. The screening period will be 3 weeks – 90 days, any extension to this will be subject to prior agreement between the LPA and the developer.
The scope of the EIA will be wider including the vulnerability of the proposed development to major accidents or disasters. Significant effects relevant to that development will need to be considered.
The ES will be required to set out the competencies of the person/s undertaking the assessment. This is to demonstrate it has been prepared by a competent person with sufficient expertise to ensure the completeness and quality of the ES. The LPA must also ensure that the planning decision is based on an up to date assessment of the environmental impacts.
A longer minimum period of 30 days for ES consultation period is proposed, replacing the current 21 days. Additional LPA requirements when granting consent to EIA developments include; setting out of planning conditions relating to any likely significant effects; mitigation and monitoring measures. Although, in practice this largely already happens, the new Regulation places a duty on the LPA to ensure the EIA process and any Habitats Regulations Assessment are coordinated, termed a “coordination” requirement.