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Environmental Impact Assessments

The aim of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is to ensure the council is fully aware of the likely significant environmental effects of a proposed development or project prior to granting planning permission. An EIA is submitted by an applicant as part of the planning application process.

Below is a step by step guide to the Environmental Impact Assessment process

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What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?

Someone applying for planning permission carries out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and submits it to the council in an Environmental Statement as part of the planning application process.

An Environmental Impact Assessment is a process set out in the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.

There are 5 stages –

  • Screening
  • Scoping
  • Preparing an environmental statement
  • Making a planning application and consultation
  • Making a decision

Note -There is further guidance from the government  on Environmental Impact Assessments

Screening

Screening  is the first step, which determines whether a proposed project falls within the government regulations*,  and therefore requires an assessment in the first place.

Applicants ask the council to provide an opinion on whether the project needs an EIA. This can be done  at any stage of the development process (pre-application, planning application or appeal).

The council has three calendar weeks to make a decision.

Each request is considered on its own merits and is decided by referring to criteria set out in the government regulations*.

There is no public consultation on whether a project needs an EIA, nor is there any right of appeal.

However the applicant can ask the Secretary of State to consider whether an application does or doesn’t need an EIA.

*(See Schedules 1  and 2  of the Town and Country Planning (EIA) Regulations)

Scoping

The scoping stage determines which environmental issues are to be considered in the assessment.

The applicant can ask the council for its opinion on what information needs to be included (which is called a ‘scoping opinion’). The council have five calendar weeks to respond with an opinion.

There is no public consultation but the council does consult statutory bodies, such as English Nature and Environment Agency.

Preparing an Environmental Statement

Once it is determined that an EIA is necessary, the applicant must prepare and submit to the council an Environmental Statement.

The Environmental Statement must include information  on the likely significant environmental effects of the development as listed in the Regulations. The range of information needed would have been in the advice given by the council at the scoping (previous) stage.

The council and other public bodies must make available to applicants any relevant environmental information they have, eg. landscape character, data on sites of special scientific interest etc

The developer must ensure that  the Environmental Statement is complete and should be prepared by competent experts such as qualified ecologists or engineers.

Making a planning application and consultation

The Environmental Statement (and the planning application it relates to) must be publicised in the local press and online.

The public and the statutory consultation bodies, eg. English Nature and Environment Agency must have an opportunity to comment on the proposed development and the Environmental Statement.

Once a statement has been submitted with an application, the council has 16 calendar weeks to determine the planning application (unless an extension of time is agreed with the applicant).

Decision making

When making the decision whether to grant permission for the project or development to go ahead, the council and/or the Secretary of State must take into account the Environmental Statement.

The public must be informed of the outcome (whether or not permission was granted) and the grounds for the decision. The council should publicise this in the local press and online.