Biodiversity in the T&C EIA Regs 2017 – about people and quality of life
Notwithstanding the good if not adequate guidance in BS4040 on biodiversity in 2013, the 2017 T&C EIA Regulations breathe new life into the consideration of biodiversity. Whereas the concept of biodiversity was often an add-on partner in a planning application, the new T&C EIA Regs have included it in Schedule 4 as a necessity. It has included it with other topics that were not always top of the agenda, such as assessing significant effects on population, human health, biodiversity, land soil, water and landscape. Not only are the adverse effects of people an issue in EIA consideration, the effects on people is now recognised with a requirement to deal with, including objectivity and bias. These new Regs still defer to the Habitats and Birds Directives (92/43/EEC(a) & 2009/147/EC(b) respectively, as per Section 2(b)) for the applicability of the various habitats and species, but they bring together for the first time a combined obligatory assessment of all four matters, under 2(e). This is a gold-plating exercise under Regulation 26. There is thus a specific requirement ‘to assess the interaction between the factors’ listed (a-d) as ‘population and human health’ (sub-paragraph (a)) all the habitats and species in the two EU Directives named above (sub-paragraph (b)), ‘land, soil, water, air and climate’ (sub-paragraph (c)) and ‘material assets, cultural heritage and the landscape’ (sub-paragraph (d)). Biodiversity is thus centre-stage in the EIA consideration of any plan or development and has to be dealt with ‘in the round’ with all these other matters which add up to a considerate approach to living in a better environment and improved quality of life for people.