Sunday, 6 October 2013


On 11 September, IEMA hosted its third EIA Quality Mark Forum, bringing together environmental impact assessment (EIA) professionals from across the UK to discuss the future of EIA and debate how the process could be delivered more proportionately.

The day was opened by IEMA’s practice and policy lead on EIA, Josh Fothergill, who revealed that the quality of non-technical statements from the EIA Quality Mark’s 48 participants had improved over the previous 12 months. However, he warned: “EIAs can still be unfocused and complex, with lengthy environmental statements that make it difficult for the public and consenting authorities to access the information they contain.”

With plans for new EU legislation on EIA unlikely to take effect for several years, Fothergill laid down the gauntlet to the profession to take action now. “Proportionate EIA is not just about being effective, it’s about being efficient. We practitioners can make a difference in improving the proportionality of EIA, we don’t have to wait for the new EIA Directive,” he said. 

Sir Michael Pitt, the chief executive at the Planning Inspectorate, delivered a keynote speech on EIA in nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIP) and how the standard assessment process could learn from NSIP best practice. His tips included having strong project management in place from the outset, and ensuring early and ongoing engagement with stakeholders.

The second session focused on how competent authorities and statutory bodies can help deliver more proportionate EIA. Cara Davidson, from the Scottish government, introduced the devolved administration’s new advice note on EIA, PAN 1/2013 (which replaced PAN 58).

She explained how it had been designed to ensure more efficient assessments, by encouraging, for example, better use of strategic environmental assessments. “Proportionate EIA is not just about environmental statements,” said Davidson. “PAN 1/2013 looks at how organisations can work together to improve EIA.”

There were also presentations by experts from the Planning Inspectorate and the Environment Agency on work to improve assessments. The inspectorate’s Frances Russell highlighted the importance of clearly labelling where information sits within an environmental statement, revealing that the body receives a significant proportion of statements without a comprehensive contents page.

Meanwhile, the agency’s Veronica James discussed how the regulator was working with Natural England and the Forestry Commission to deliver a “single voice” on developments and avoid duplicating efforts or providing contradictory advice.

In breakout sessions the 75 delegates also shared their ideas on creating more proportionate assessments, discussing environmental statements, scoping, iterative design and how to cut out “wasteful actions”. These sessions will form the basis for forthcoming guidance notes from IEMA.

— Sources: IEMA, The Environmentalist.

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