The European Parliament and the Council of Minsters have approved the Commission’s proposed changes to the EIA Directive. The Directive covers more than 200 types of project, including bridges, ports, motorways, landfill sites and some intensive agricultural operations, as well as urban development projects. The Directive has been amended three times since its adoption in 1985 and was harmonised in 2011.
Following lengthy consultation, the European Parliament published a revised draft Directive in October 2013 with the aim of making EIA clearer, ensuring assessments both take account of biodiversity and climate change and involve the public. The European Parliament has now agreed a significantly diluted version. Key changes to the regime will include:
- New environmental topics: including biodiversity, climate change, land, human health and natural and man-made disaster risk
- More detailed screening procedures
- More detailed analysis of reasonable alternatives considered by the developer
- A requirement for EIA to be either undertaken or reviewed by accredited experts
- Greater clarity on mitigation
- Monitoring requirements will apply for higher risk projects
- Specific timeframes for key stages of the EIA process.
The changes will come into force 20 days after publication in the European Union’s Official Journal and the UK will have 3 years to transpose it through any changes to the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. The Government has indicated that it will make changes in 2016.