WHAT WILL IT MEAN FOR YOUR PROJECTS?
It was quite a year 2016, wasn’t it? Whilst we wait patiently for clarity from the UK government on what Brexit might mean for us all, we have been gathering our thoughts this grey January to think about what it will mean for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) projects in 2017.
Substantial amendments to the EIA Directive 2011/92/EU were adopted back in 2014 and are due to be implemented and become statute and form UK law by 16 May 2017. As a quick reminder, the key changes include:
Emphasis on Environmental Topics – to consider how significant impacts on climate change, human health and resource efficiency can be assessed more effectively in the ES report;
Mitigation and Monitoring – greater emphasis on mitigation measures from an early stage and environmental monitoring of significant adverse effects post-consent;
Binding Scoping Opinion – scoping will remain voluntary for developers but the Environmental Statement report (to be known as the ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ Report) will be required to be based on the Scoping Opinion. Currently the scoping opinion is not binding;
Revised Timescales – extended screening stage and public consultation on ES report; and
- ‘Competent Experts’ – Environmental Statements to be prepared by accredited and competent experts.
What will Brexit mean for EIA projects?
Not a lot for the foreseeable future. Any form of Brexit will likely be long and drawn out and we are advised by the legal profession it could take over 10 years for the UK to repeal and reenact/ remove EU legislation into UK law. But how long is a piece of string?
EIA is also the subject of international conventions to which the UK is a party. An exit from Europe does not remove us from such conventions and therefore the UK’s commitments to EIA will remain intact largely as currently drafted.
It is our view that we are however likely to see threshold criteria for housing development projects increase (it is currently 150 dwellings or a site of 5 hectares) and therefore fewer housing developments would qualify as EIA projects. However, most EIA projects are well over the existing criteria as we prepare comprehensive Screening Requests to ensure borderline EIA projects are no longer borderline and are therefore not considered EIA development.
…and do your EIA projects need to comply to the amended EIA Regulations?
Scotland and Wales have already consulted on the amendments. Whilst there have been whispers of England consulting on these changes, it now doesn’t look likely to happen before May 2017. This is not surprising as Whitehall is sufficiently distracted by pressing Brexit negotiations between now and possibly October 2018. However, in the absence of consultation, the amended EIA Directive will still become statute and form UK law.
In our view it is therefore business as usual and EIA projects will still need to comply with amendments to the EIA Directive after 16 May 2017.
What does this mean for future projects (and statutory consultees)?
Projects which are scoped before 16 May 2017 will not need to comply with the amendments. We therefore advise you submit any Scoping Requests for your projects no later than early March 2017 to ensure a response from local authorities and statutory consultees and avoid any delays due to a backlog.
We also advise that you screen your projects early this year to ensure they are not EIA – to allow enough time to scope any EIA projects.
Navigating the Process
We’re happy to help signpost you through this process. If you need any help, let’s have a chat.
Minimising the environmental impact of our clients’ projects to reduce costs and delays is something we take extremely seriously – to the extent that we are recognised by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) as being at the forefront of good practice and expertise in EIA. This is reflected by our EIA Quality Mark Accreditation. We're a commercially aware bunch as we are also accredited IEMA Practitioners and chartered Town Planners.
We offer an independent EIA service and our clients are some of the UK’s major house builders, universities, developers and conservation charities – they partner with us for our pragmatic advice, expertise and exceptional results.