Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations

We have recently submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening request to a Council relating to a proposed 30ha solar farm.

EIA regulations only apply to certain development and the process of the EIA, in the context of planning, is governed by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.

The purpose of an EIA is to protect the environment by ensuring that a local planning authority, when deciding whether to grant planning permission for a project which is likely to have significant effects on the environment, do so in the full knowledge of the likely significant effects and takes this into account in the decision making process.  There are five stages, broadly speaking, to EIA which include screening, scoping, preparing an environmental statement, making a planning application and consultation and decision making.

Screening determines whether a proposed project falls within the remit of the regulations, whether it is likely to have a significant effect on the environment and therefore whether it requires an EIA assessment (i.e. preparation of an Environmental Statement).  This is usually undertaken at an early stage, however, it can be undertaken after a planning application has been made.  An applicant can ask the local planning authority for its opinion on what information needs to be included in determining the extent of issues to be considered in the assessment and then report it in the environmental statement. This second stage is known as scoping.

If it is decided that an assessment is required the applicant must prepare and submit an environmental statement which must include at least the information reasonably required to assess potential significant environmental effects of the development listed which are set out in the regulations. The developer, or agent, must ensure that this is prepared by competent experts on these matters and environmental statements must be accompanied by a statement from the developer outlining the relevant expertise or qualifications off search experts.

The environmental statement must be electronically published, and by public notice.  Statutory consultation bodies and the public must be given an opportunity to give their views about both the proposed development and the environmental statement. The environmental statement together with any of the information which is relevant to the decision and any comments and representations made during the consultation must be taken into account by a local planning authority in deciding whether or not to grant permission for the development.

For our project, a solar PV farm is an industrial installation for the production of electricity where the development exceeds 0.5 hectares so is considered “Schedule 2 development”.  At an early stage we have made a request to the local planning authority to provide a screening opinion as to whether the proposal is EIA development.

As is required by the aforementioned EIA Regulations, we have submitted the following information:

  • A plan sufficient to identify the land;
  • A description of the development, including in particular –
    • A description of the physicals characteristics of the development and, where relevant, of demolition works;
    • A description of the location of the development, with particular regard to the environmental sensitively of the geographic areas likely to be affected.
  • A description of the aspects of the environment likely to be significantly affected by the development;
  • To the extent information is available, a description of any likely significant effects of the proposed development on the environment resulting from –
    • The expected residues and emissions and the production of waste, where relevant and;
    • The use of natural resources, in particular soil, land and water and biodiversity and;
    • Such other information or representations as the person making the request may wish to provide or make, including any features of the proposed development or any measures to avoid or prevent what might otherwise have been significant adverse effects on the environment.

Where it is determined that the proposed development is not EIA development, the authority must state any features of the proposed development and measures envisaged to avoid, or prevent what might otherwise have been, significant adverse effects on the environment.

EIA regulations for some development are something developer’s need to be aware of to ensure the correct process is followed even though only a very small proportion of Schedule 2 development will be EIA development.   This is something we are used to checking for and collation of information during the EIA process needs good project management skills to ensure the relevant information is collected between professionals to achieve an appropriate outcome within the scope of the regulations and the decision making process.