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EU to Change EIA Regulations

IN 2014, THE EU AMENDED ITS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA) DIRECTIVE TO MAKE THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS MORE THOROUGH AND EFFICIENT. IN MAY THIS YEAR, THE CHANGES WILL FINALLY BE PUT INTO EFFECT ACROSS THE UK – INCLUDING SCOTLAND. BUT HOW WILL THESE CHANGES AFFECT YOUR PROJECTS?

Scotland’s environments are some of the most beautiful and unique in the world. But they’re also some of the most delicate. Environmental Impact Assessments are an important step in preserving these environments by measuring the likely impact of developments. Naturally, they can prove challenging for certain projects – particularly for larger developments where impact is likely to be greater. In April 2014, the EU amended the original 2011 directive regarding the;

“…assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.”

As a member state, the UK (including Scotland) is obligated to adhere to both existing and future EU regulations – at least, for now. If your application for screening is initiated before 16th May 2017, it’ll be subject to the original 2011 directive. Those initiated after that date will be subject to the amended 2014 EIA directive.

These changes are designed to further protect the environment and make the assessment process more efficient. These regulation changes could be both beneficial and burdensome depending on your project and approach. While the Directive includes many smaller details, including changing the term ‘Environmental Statement’ to ‘EIA Report’, the following include some of the most major changes that will impact your upcoming projects – for better or worse.

THE SCREENING PROCESS

The process of determining whether a project requires an EIA or not has changed significantly. Developers must include more information, including a formal screening report, the potential impacts of the project related to waste, use of natural resources, and risks from major accidents and disasters. Developers can also include mitigation measures that will be used to prevent these adverse effects, possibly reducing the need for an EIA entirely.

Expanded Scope

EIA Reports will also be required to cover expanded topics, including impacts to biodiversity, human health, climate change, accident risks, and more.

Competent Experts

Developers must make sure that each EIA report is prepared by ‘competent experts’ to ensure its ‘completeness and quality’. The directive does not define a ‘competent expert’, although demonstrable skills and expertise, along with membership of authority organisations including IEMA (the worldwide alliance of environment and sustainability professionals) would be advantageous for developers.

Monitoring

Projects must now be monitored to determine potential impacts, allowing everyone involved to better measure and understand the effects of development. While an extra step, the associated costs would be minimal if managed effectively.

It’s clear that the requirements for EIA are being expanded – with more pressure on developers and local authorities alike to provide more information and adhere to stricter guidelines. However, the way in which EIA are to be carried out will not integrally change. There is also a great deal of uncertainty surrounding EIA changes. Regardless, developers who keep upto-date and informed will be well-prepared when it comes to new projects started after 16th May 2017. Projects commenced before this date will continue under existing regulations.

To learn more about the upcoming changes, visit gov.scot. VG Consulting are experts in Environmental Impact Assessments. Call us at 01563 829 999 to discuss how to ensure your project meets legislation.

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