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Consultation on Changes to the EIA Regulations in Wales

Following on from Scotland, the Welsh Government is now consulting on proposals for making changes to the current Town and Country Planning (EIA) (Wales) Regulations 2016 in order to implement the new EIA Directive (2014/52/EU) and to make other changes to national legislation. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks from 22nd August to 11th November 2016 and is available here.

The UK continues to be a member of the EU and as such is statutorily obligated to transpose the new EIA Directive into legislation by the deadline of 16th May 2017.

Whilst draft regulations have yet to be published, the key changes proposed are summarised below.

  • 35 day time limit for 3rd parties to request a screening direction from Welsh Ministers; this is to prevent such requests being made late in the process, leading to unnecessary delays. If no screening opinion has been sought or issued no time limit is proposed.
  • Seeking to increase the statutory timescales for providing scoping opinions in order to make sure scoping focuses on key issues likely to have significant environmental effects. It is felt the current 5 week period is not sufficient to satisfactorily consider the issues or engage with consultees.
  • Regarding interaction with the Habitats and Birds Directives the proposal is for a coordinated procedure rather than a joint procedure and would involve having a designated authority to coordinate the individual assessments. This is considered to offer developers the greatest flexibility on the phasing and timing of EIA and HRA.
  • All information is to be made available online. 20 out of 25 LPAs in Wales already have interactive systems; the other 5 will not be required to introduce new interactive systems but will have to provide the information online.
  • Where an EIA application is made it should include both a paper and electronic version; this is also proposed for appeals submitted to Welsh Ministers.
  • Public consultation period extended to a minimum period of 30 days (from the current 21 days).
  • Impose a general requirement on the competent authority to include monitoring measures where appropriate, leaving it to their discretion as to what factors should be monitored and for how long.
  • Where the competent authority is also the developer, and to avoid potential conflicts of interest, measures are to be introduced to ensure objectivity and functional separation.
  • LPAs will have a duty to consider if the requirements and objectives of the EIA Directive have been met when they are considering taking enforcement action.
  • To ensure the completeness and quality of the ES it must be prepared by persons who by virtue of their qualifications or experience have sufficient expertise; this is in the opinion of the competent authority. There will also be a requirement that the competent authority ensures that it has access to sufficient expertise to examine the ES.
  • Provisions in Section 137 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enable an owner whose land is refused planning consent to serve a purchase notice. Welsh Ministers can either confirm the notice or grant planning permission, which could comprise EIA development. Amendments will be made to the regulations such that Welsh Ministers may only grant consent for EIA development following the provision of an ES by the developer, and consideration of that ES.

There are other areas of the EIA regulations where there is no substantive choice in how transposition of the new EIA Directive can be achieved (e.g. the selection criteria used to determine if a project requires EIA); these measures are not included in the Welsh Government’s consultation paper.

Arcus is vastly experienced in the field of EIA and the team includes several IEMA Registered EIA Practitioners.  If you would like further details on the changes being proposed or any advice relating to EIA on your projects, please get in touch: 01904 715 470 environment@arcusconsulting.co.uk