Will your environmental mitigation do what's promised? You’ll need answers by May 2017.

Developers, consultants and contractors need to start preparing now for the introduction of a revised EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive which will require monitoring of environmental impacts post construction and could be interpreted to mean remedial works will be required.   

Happy newts will be good news

The updated directive comes into full force on 16 May 2017. A summary of the changes is listed below, but there are many questions around the implementation legislation and what it is going to say.

“The mitigation measures are where it gets serious,” James Pereira QC of Francis Taylor Building told the National Infrastructure Planning Association annual conference this week.

And the issue of post consent monitoring is where it got serious enough for Pereira to put up a slide simply reading “AAAGH”. “The new directive will place an obligation on the planning authority to monitor significant adverse effects from the development on the environment. The result of that could mean a feed back mechanism requiring the mitigation measures be revisited,” he said.

The revised directive

The new approach pays greater attention to threats and challenges that have emerged since the original rules came into force some 25 years ago. This means more attentions to areas like resource efficiency, climate change and disaster prevention, which are now better reflected in the assessment process. The main amendments are:

•  Member States now have a mandate to simplify their different environmental assessment procedures.

•  Timeframes are introduced for the different stages of environmental assessments: screening decisions should be taken within 90 days (although extensions are possible) and public consultations should last at least 30 days. Members States also need to ensure that final decisions are taken within a "reasonable period of time".

•  The screening procedure, determining whether an EIA is required, is simplified. Decisions must be duly motivated in the light of the updated screening criteria.

•  EIA reports are to be made more understandable for the public, especially as regards assessments of the current state of the environment and alternatives to the proposal in question.

•  The quality and the content of the reports will be improved. Competent authorities will also need to prove their objectivity to avoid conflicts of interest.

•  The grounds for development consent decisions must be clear and more transparent for the public. Member States may also set timeframes for the validity of any reasoned conclusions or opinions issued as part of the EIA procedure.

•  If projects do entail significant adverse effects on the environment, developers will be obliged to do the necessary to avoid, prevent or reduce such effects. These projects will need to be monitored using procedures determined by the Member States. Existing monitoring arrangements may be used to avoid duplication of monitoring and unnecessary costs.

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