10 February 2017
How these may affect your developments and proposals.
The European Parliament adopted a revised version of the EIA directive (2014/52/EU) in 2014 to be transposed by member states into their own legislations by 16 May 2017.
Whilst Wales and Scotland have already undertaken a consultation exercise to gain views on the changes; in England the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) undertook consultation from late December 2016 to 1st February 2017 on revising the EIA Regulations in relation to town and country planning. The DCLG also undertook a consultation on replacing the National Infrastructure (EIA) Regulations related to DCO applications. Other recently completed consultation includes that by the Department of Infrastructure in Northern Ireland on EIA within the town and country planning regime and consultation by Defra and the devolved governments on five other EIA regimes – forestry, agriculture, water resources, land drainage and marine works.
In essence, the DCLG has taken the view to keep changes to a minimum, particularly where they feel that the present regulations already meet the requirements of the EU Directive. Much of the consultation, therefore, asked for additional information or agreement, or not, to this principle. Where there have been some changes, the DCLG listed a ‘baker’s dozen’ bullet list of 13 changes of most significance (there are other administrative or protocol matters that have little impact) that have been adopted in part or full.
The DCLG has explained this selection of some of the EU directive changes by stating: “In transposing the amendments to the Directive, our view at the outset is that there is merit in retaining, as far as practical, the existing approach to environmental impact assessment in England as it is well understood by developers, local planning authorities and others involved in the procedures. Our proposals for consultation therefore represent what we consider to be the minimum changes necessary to the existing regulations in order to bring them into line with the amended Directive. This will also minimise familiarisation costs and business uncertainty.”
Although Article 50 is likely to be triggered before the implementation deadline of the new EIA Directive of 16th May 2017, it is highly unlikely that the UK will have exited the EU by that date, and therefore the Directive will still need to be transposed into UK legislation.
The DCLG supplied two annexes to the consultation containing the proposed revised legislation namely the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 and the Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.
Download this summary for further information on the changes and for our initial thoughts and comments on the potential impact to developers, investors or businesses with interests in EIA development.
The consultation closed on 1st February. In the short term, a key matter is how confident Local Planning authorities will be after the EU deadline in making screening and scoping decisions and you may wish to get these completed sooner, rather than later - before 16 May 2017. Where proposed developments are on the borderline of requiring EIA, developers may benefit from increased ability to screen the development out from EIA by providing details of proposed mitigation.
If you feel you may be affected by these matters or just want more advice on the implication generally for your future proposals in 2017, please do not hesitate to contact John Leggett, Associate Planner, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.