DCLG published new draft EIA Regulations on 14th December. The consultation period runs until 1st February and the Regulations will be in force from 16th May. Most of the changes are as expected. Key points include:
- Provision to consider mitigation to avoid significant adverse effects at the screening stage
- Coordination of EIA and Habitats Regulations Assessment
- 21-day timescale for receiving a Screening Opinion retained with potential to request extension in writing up to 90 days
- Scope increased to include human health, biodiversity, climate change, accidents and disasters
- Environmental Statement must be based on the Scoping Opinion where one is requested
- Increased consideration of alternatives required
- Environmental Statements must be prepared by competent experts
- Decision makers must have sufficient expertise to examine Environmental Statements
- Consultation period for an Environmental Statement extended to 30 days
- Mandatory monitoring for significant adverse effects
- Decision notice must be up to date and include environmental conditions and mitigation measures
- Requests for an EIA Screening Opinion submitted before 16th May will be considered under the screening provisions of the existing EIA Regulations.
- For development requiring EIA, a request for an EIA Scoping Opinion or the Environmental Statement must be submitted by the deadline to be considered under the existing EIA Regulations.
It is possible that the Government may publish the new regulations before the 16 May deadline, however current intelligence is that this is unlikely given the need to take consultation responses into account and for the legislation to go through Parliament. Our advice is to screen or scope as soon as possible if you wish a project to be considered under the current regulations.