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Environmental Impact Assessment

The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 Statutory Instrument 2011: 1824 – also known as the EIA Regulations – form part of the development control system in England and relate to certain types of development.

The EIA process

The EIA Regulations relate to a European Union Directive (Directive 85/337/EEC as amended by Directive 97/11/EC on the assessment of the effect of certain public and private projects on the environment), and give planning authorities a means of ensuring that they can take account of the environmental, economic and social implications of individual developments in their decisions on planning applications.

The EIA Regulations place a number of responsibilities on planning authorities, which relate to the different stages of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.

Stage 1: Screening to determine whether EIA is required

The EIA Regulations only apply to certain types of development, and before the Council can request an EIA it must determine whether the proposal is subject to the Regulations and can be classified as ‘EIA development’, and decide whether EIA is required in that particular case. This process is called 'screening' and there are two ways in which it can be applied:

  1. A developer can ask the planning authority to give an EIA screening opinion before the application for planning permission is submitted.
  2. Where a planning application has been submitted without an environmental statement and alternatively no request has been made in the past for a screening opinion, the planning authority has the right to adopt an EIA screening opinion for the proposal, which will determine whether or not the scheme requires EIA.

In either case the planning authority has 3 weeks within which to adopt their EIA screening opinion from the date on which the request was received (for (1) above) or the planning application was deemed to be valid (for (2) above). In both cases the 3 week period can be extended, if the developer agrees in writing to the extension. Once the screening opinion has been adopted, it is required to be held in a public register for 2 years. The list below contains all EIA Screening & Scoping Opinions issued in the past two years and where an Environmental Statement is available a link to it is provided.

Stage 2: Scoping to determine what information should be covered by an EIA

Where a proposed scheme is determined to be ‘EIA development’, the developer can ask the planning authority for advice on the scope of the information to be gathered during the EIA and to be covered in the Environmental Statement (which reports on the findings of the EIA).

The planning authority has a period of 5 weeks within which to produce an EIA scoping opinion, which can be extended if the developer agrees in writing to the extension. The planning authority is legally required to consult with the Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage. Once the scoping opinion has been adopted, it is held in a public register for 2 years, this is available online.

Stage 3: Reviewing the adequacy of environmental statements

Once an environmental statement has been submitted with a planning application the planning authority can request additional information if it considers the environmental statement to be inadequate. The adequacy of environmental statements is determined by comparison with the content requirements of the EIA Regulations.

 

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