Environmental Impact Assessment – When is an EIA Required?
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic process that evaluates the potential environmental impacts of a proposed development project or activity. The process can help identify strategies to mitigate or avoid negative impacts and enhance positive outcomes.
The assessment process typically involves gathering and analysing data on the project and its potential effects on the environment, including air, water, soil, plants, animals, and human health. This data is used to identify potential impacts and assess the significance of those impacts.
An EIA is usually required for major development projects or activities that may have a significant effect on the environment. The process is overseen by the local planning authority, which may require the project developer to undertake certain measures to address identified impacts or to modify or redesign the project. The EIA report is often made available to the public for review and comment before a decision is made on the project.
What are the stages of an EIA?
The stages of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) typically include the following:
- Screening: This is the initial stage where the proposed project or activity is evaluated to determine whether it requires a full EIA. The aim is to identify projects that have potentially significant impacts on the environment and require further assessment.
- Scoping: Once a project has been screened, the scope of the assessment is defined. This involves identifying the potential environmental impacts and issues that need to be addressed in the EIA.
- Baseline data collection: This stage involves gathering data on the environment, such as air and water quality, plants and animals, soil composition, and other relevant factors, in the project area. This data is used to establish a baseline against which potential impacts can be measured.
- Impact assessment: This involves identifying and assessing the potential effects of the project or activity on the environment, taking into account the baseline data, the scope of the assessment, and any relevant regulatory standards.
- Mitigation measures: Includes identifying measures that can be taken to avoid or minimise negative impacts, and to enhance positive ones. This may involve modifying the project design, implementing pollution control measures, or developing plans to manage the impacts of the project.
- Report preparation: This stage involves compiling the findings of the EIA into a report that is submitted to the regulatory authority or other designated body for review and decision-making.
- Decision-making: The regulatory authority or other designated body reviews the EIA report and makes a decision on whether to approve or reject the project or activity, and under what conditions it may proceed.
- Monitoring and review: Once the project or activity has been approved, ongoing monitoring and review is conducted to ensure that the mitigation measures are effective and that any unforeseen impacts are addressed.
When are EIAs required?
EIAs are needed for developments that fall under Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.
In general, projects falling under Schedule 1 are considered to have a higher potential environmental impact and therefore require a more detailed EIA. These may include large-scale industrial projects, oil and gas exploration or extraction, large dams, or major transportation infrastructure projects.
Projects falling under Schedule 2, on the other hand, are typically smaller in scale or have a lower potential environmental impact, and therefore may not require as detailed an EIA as those under Schedule 1. Examples of projects that may fall under Schedule 2 could include minor road or building construction, small-scale renewable energy projects, or other types of development that are unlikely to have significant environmental impacts.
If a person is unsure whether they need an EIA then the local planning authority can decide by carrying out a screening opinion, and if there is confusion surrounding the scope of a potential EIA a scoping opinion can also be carried out by the local planning authority.
Why are EIAs important?
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are important for several reasons. An EIA is designed to identify and assess the potential environmental impacts of a proposed development project or activity. By identifying these in advance, developers can take steps to mitigate them, or redesign the project to minimise or avoid them altogether. This can help protect natural habitats, conserve biodiversity, and safeguard air and water quality.
The process also often involves public consultation and engagement, which allows members of the public to be a part of the decision making process, enabling them to express their concerns regarding the environmental effects a proposed project or activity. This can help ensure that local communities have a voice in decisions that could have significant impact on their environment and quality of life.
Environmental Assessments can help ensure that development projects are designed and implemented in a way that is sustainable over the long-term, ensuring the effects of a project help promote economic growth while minimising negative environmental impacts.
How can CWE assist?
If you require an EIA and are looking for some advice surrounding the EIA process then our team of Ecologists are on hand to assist you.
Our Ecology Director, Olivia Collington, is a highly professional Ecologist. She is passionate about ecology and has vast amounts of experience in providing ecological services, including ecological appraisal and assessment.