• 16 May 2017

Changes to Town and Country Planning (EIA) Regulations 2017

The European Parliament adopted a revised version of the EIA directive (2014/52/EU) in 2014 which will be transposed into each member states’ legislation. In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) undertook consultation on its proposed changes to the EIA Regulations in relation to town and country planning from late December 2016 to 1st February 2017.

The responses have been considered and new Regulations have been issued that will come into force the 16th May 2017. The DCLG has minimised the changes, particularly where they feel that the current Regulations already meet the requirements of the EU Directive. Key potential changes based on the latest consultation and draft Regulations document are:

• The information required to be supplied in a screening opinion is now identified in more detail in the Regulations and is therefore mandatory. Of note is that reference is made explicitly to demolition works and there also is the opportunity to identify mitigation measures to overcome likely significant effects;

• Screening Opinions and Screening Directions must be provided within 3 weeks. The changes now introduce a maximum period of no more than 90 days from receipt of the request. The ‘no more than 90’ days is new and is hoped to prevent local authorities and the Secretary of State from dragging their feet indefinitely;

• The final ES must be based upon the most recent Scoping Opinion (or Scoping Direction) which must be based on a scheme that is not materially different to that for which planning permission is being sought;

• Greater front loading of EIA Scoping, the idea being more detailed scoping with a more thorough evidence base which will allow for a better scoped (and potentially slimmed down scope) of a final ES;

• Greater prescription of the required content of Environmental Statements along with new environmental topics to be considered within the EIA process including:
Natural disasters and hazardous risks;
Climate change;
Biodiversity (replaces flora and fauna);
Health impacts (human health).

• The latter is likely to be an area of contention and challenge as there are no current methodologies for scientifically doing this;

• There is a need to consider “reasonable” alternatives which are “relevant to the proposed project and its specific characteristics” and importantly a need to consider a “comparison of the environmental effects”;

• Cumulative schemes are likely to be more clearly defined being ‘other existing development and / or approved development’ (i.e. no unconsented schemes);

• Developer must ensure their EIAs are undertaken by ‘competent experts’ and include a statement in the ES outlining the expert’s relevant experience;

• A requirement to monitor all mitigation measures required in relation to significant environmental effects. This is likely to be borne out in more onerous planning conditions etc. and lead to a raft of more involved post- application and even post-construction work.

The other consideration is how confident in making screening and scoping decisions Local Planning authorities will be initially after the new EIA Regulations come into force.

You can also few these regulations by clicking here.

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