Register of EIA Screening and Scoping Opinions
The purpose of EIA is to assess all potentially significant environmental impacts arising from a proposed development and to identify appropriate mitigation measures by which these impacts can be reduced or avoided. This ensures that local planning authorities take full account of the likely significant effects in determining planning applications. EIA is governed by the Town and Country Planning (EIA) Regulations 2011 as amended, which apply EU Directive 85/337/EEC “on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment” (the ‘EIA Directive’) to the planning system in England.
Stage 1: EIA Screening – is an EIA required?
Before the Council can require a developer to prepare an EIA it must undertake ‘screening’ to determine whether the proposal is likely to have significant effects on the environment. If the proposed development is listed in Schedule 1 of the Regulations, an EIA is required in every case. If the proposed development is listed in Schedule 2 and exceeds the relevant exclusion thresholds and criteria set out in the second column, it must be screened having regard to:
- the characteristics of the development;
- the location of the development (having regard to the environmental sensitivity of the area); and
- the characteristics of the potential impact.
Indicative size thresholds are provided in the third column of Schedule 2 to guide the screening process. Proposals located in, or partly in, a ‘sensitive area’ also need to be screened, even if they fall below the relevant thresholds.
Where a developer submits a request to the Council for screening opinion, the Council has 3 weeks within which to adopt its EIA screening opinion from the date on which the request was received (the 3 week period can be extended, if the developer agrees in writing to the extension). Once the Council’s screening opinion has been issued, it is required to be held on a public register.
Stage 2: EIA Scoping – what issues should the EIA cover?
Where a proposed development is determined to be ‘EIA development’, the developer can ask the Council for advice on the scope of the information to be gathered during the EIA and to be covered in the Environmental Statement (which reports on the findings of the EIA). The Council has a period of 5 weeks within which to produce an EIA Scoping Opinion, which can be extended if the developer agrees in writing to the extension. The planning authority is legally required to consult with the Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage and the Greater London Authority. Once the scoping opinion has been adopted, it is held in a public register.
Stage 3: Review of Environmental Statements
Once an Environmental Statement has been submitted with a planning application, the Council can request additional information if it considers the Environmental Statement fails to address the minimum requirements set out in Schedule 3 of the EIA Regulations.