Following a period of consultation, the much-anticipated Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 were laid before Parliament on 19th April. As planned, the new Regulations will come into force on 16th May. The Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 will apply to the nationally significant infrastructure planning regime.
The first thing to note is that the publication of the Regulations confirms the positon on transitional arrangements. Requests for an EIA screening opinion submitted before 16th May 2017 will be considered under the screening provisions of the existing EIA Regulations. However, for development requiring EIA, the current EIA Regulations will continue to apply if a request for a Scoping Opinion or an Environmental Statement has been submitted before 16th May 2017 (i.e. screening is not enough).
Headline Changes from Draft Regulations
The key change to the draft regulations as a result of this consultation exercise has been an amendment to the requirement for the consenting authority to ensure it is satisfied as to the competency of experts - the adopted regulations places this duty upon the developer. ‘Competent expert’ has not been defined in the regulations, but it is anticipated that further guidance on this may come from updates to Planning Practice Guidance in due course. Environmental Statements will be required to be accompanied by a statement setting out the relevant expertise or qualifications of experts used. Another change not present in the draft is a reduction in the threshold from 5ha to 0.5ha above which screening for EIA is required for industrial estate projects. This was not expected and contacts at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) are contacting DCLG to find out the reason for reverting to the lower threshold.
To see a recap of the remaining key changes, which are largely as expected, please see our Guidance Note.
Download our Guidance Note
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