ADA responds to consultation on changes to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations

ADA responds to consultation on changes to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations

ADA has responded to a joint consultation on the transposition of the changes made by EU Directive 2014/52/EU to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU through national implementing regulations. The consultation related to six regulations, but particularly for risk management authorities in England and Wales it proposed changes to The Environmental Impact Assessment (Land Drainage Improvement Works) Regulations 1999, as amended in 2005 and in 2006. The consultation was conducted by Defra, the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.


What changes were proposed?

 Screening decisions by competent authorities – ‘Screening’ describes the process where a competent authority decides if a proposed project is likely to have significant environmental effects and, therefore, if an EIA is required. In the current Land Drainage Regulations there are no time limits on when a screening decision must be made (either by the drainage body or by the Minister). The consultation proposes to change this to ensure that the decision by the competent authority must be concluded within 90 days. ADA supported this change as we believe it will improve effective decision making and avoid unnecessary delay and consequential costs for members. In addition the 2014 Directive has introduced a new detailed list of the information that the applicant provides to the competent authority to help it screen the application.

Consulting others in the EIA process – The transposition of the 2014 Directive increases the minimum time for public consultations (on the environmental impact assessment report) from 28 days to 30 days. ADA accepted this change.

Competent experts – The 2014 Directive has introduced a requirement that the applicant must ensure that the environmental statement is prepared by competent experts, defined as “persons who, by virtue of their qualifications or experience, have sufficient expertise to ensure the completeness and quality of the statement”. ADA accepted this change.


What was missing?

Through discussions with Defra prior to the formal consultation ADA had highlighted the benefit of removing specific reference in the regulations to advertising formal notices in newspapers and instead enabling notices to be placed online, e.g. on public websites. We advocated this to ensure that such notices have a greater opportunity of reaching as wide a proportion of the relevant audience as possible given the reducing availability of printed media in the UK and increasing advertising costs involved. ADA therefore disagreed with consultation proposals to retain requirements to use non-electronic methods for notices for alerting the public to EIA consultations.