The process of Environmental Impact Assessment, in context of town and country planning in England, is governed by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.
The aim of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is to protect the environment by ensuring that a local planning authority when deciding whether to grant planning permission for a project, which is likely to have significant environmental effects, does so in full knowledge of the likely impacts and takes these into account in the decision making process.
The Regulations set out a procedure for identifying those projects which should be subject to an EIA and the process for assessing, consulting and making a decision on such projects.
There are five broad stages to EIA:
- Screening – Determining whether a proposed project falls within the remit of the Regulations and whether it is likely to have significant environmental effects
- Scoping – Determining the extent of issues to be considered in the assessment and reported in the Environmental Statement (should it have been concluded from the Screening that the project is likely to have significant environmental effects)
- Preparation of the Environmental Statement – The Environmental Statement must be prepared by competent experts and include a statement outlining the relevant expertise or qualifications of such experts.
- Making of the planning application and consultation – The Environmental Statement (and the application for development to which it relates) is required to be publicised electronically and by public notice by the local planning authority. Statutory consultees and the public are then given the opportunity to comment on the proposed development and ES.
- Decision making – The local planning authority and/or Secretary of State appraises the proposed development and ES against planning policy, in context of any views expressed during consultation, and decides whether or not to grant planning permission for the development.
Applicants for development which may fall within the remit of the EIA Regulations should contact the County Planning team at an early stage of the pre-application process and request a Screening Opinion to determine whether an EIA is required. If the Screening Opinion subsequently determines EIA is required a Scoping Opinion should be sought to confirm the topics required to be covered within the Environmental Statement.
Further information on the legislation covering EIA, and the aforementioned five stages, can be found here.