The EIA 2017 Regulations

UKELA’s meeting (25 Sept) on adapting to the changes brought in by the New EIA Regulations was kindly hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills. The ‘2017 Regulations’ came into force on 16 May 2017 [1] and the evening event was a revealing and forthright résumé by experts in the field:  Josh Fothergill (Fothergill Training), Rufus Howard (Royal HaskoningDHV) and Harriet Peacock (Tower Hamlets).  What was made abundantly clear was that EIA in future should be scaled down from the excesses of paperwork that has escalated over the last ten years: the EIA for Hinckley ran to 35,000 pages. Less than 1% of the yearly 400,000 planning applications are EIAs and they vary enormously in quality.  The way ahead is cutting through traditional EIAs to deal with ‘likely significant effects’ (LSE) simplifying planning applications for LPAs who are restricted by resources and manpower.  Anything to assist LPAs deal with the paperwork is welcome, to speed the process through planning applications; a pragmatic approach is recommended, covering all relevant topics and LSE.  Getting back to lightening paperwork via FONSI  (Finding of No Significant Impacts) was promoted as a way to suggest alternative ways of dealing with ecological issues.  Scoping should deal with which schedules  to cover, and screening should screen subjects in or out.  There was more on following the ‘spirit’ of the law rather than the ‘letter’ of the law. The ‘2017 Regulations’ now have a definition (there was none in the 2011 regulations).  Project areas for consideration now  have been brought back to 0.5ha from 15ha (1.1(a)).  The ‘2017 Regulations’ still have passages which are open to interpretation such as ‘where appropriate’.  There was a call to have more SEAs in the UK (to fall in line other countries in Europe). There is a brand new section on Biodiversity in Schedule 4 combining other disciplines such as assessing significant effects on population, human health, biodiversity, land soil, water…landscape, a sort of ‘gold-plating’ cross-referencing with Regulation 26 exercise to cover all important issues that also includes objectivity and bias.  

[1] Statutory Instrument  2017 No.571. The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 (the ‘2017 Regulations’)