Competent experts and the new EIA regulations
The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 came into force on 16th May transposing the 2014-amended EIA Directive into UK law. Nationally significant infrastructure projects are covered by the separate ‘Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017’.
The amendments to the EIA Directive aim to simplify the rules for assessing the potential effects of projects on the environment in line with the drive for smarter regulation, to lighten unnecessary administrative burdens, and to improve the level of environmental protection with a view to making business decisions on public and private investments more sound, predictable and sustainable in the longer term. The changes introduced by the 2017 Regulations include:
- Determining whether a proposed project falls within the remit of the Regulations (‘screening’) becomes mandatory rather than voluntary.
- Determining the extent of issues to be considered in the assessment (‘scoping’) will remain voluntary but the ES must be based on any scoping opinion provided by a planning authority.
- Strengthening the requirement to describe alternative options (and their environmental effects) for a proposed development.
- Within the EIA assessment process, the term ‘human being’ is replaced by ‘population and human health’ and the term ‘fauna and flora’ is replaced by ‘biodiversity’.
- A requirement to consider, where relevant, the risks of a project resulting in major accidents and/or disasters to the environment.
- A condition as part of the development consent to monitor the environmental impacts of a project can now be included, if appropriate.
- A requirement for the developer to ensure that the environmental statement is prepared by competent experts, while the consenting authority must ensure that it also has access to sufficient expertise to examine the environmental statement.
Land Research Associates has been successfully engaged in assessing the impacts of development on soils and agricultural land for almost 20 years and, consequently, meets the ‘competent expert’ requirement.