The EIA Directive 2014/52/EU introduces amendments to the EIA regime and will come into force on 16 May 2014. Once in force, member states will have three years to incorporate the directive into national legislation.
While the projects for which a screening request should be made will not change, the amendments expand and set out greater detail on the information that must be provided for the screening process (which determines whether an EIA is required for a development) and the information to be covered by the environmental statement where one is required.
Local authorities will have 90 days to make a screening decision (unless circumstances justify a longer timeframe) and will be required to provide reasons for their decision. Where it is decided that an EIA is not required, the local authority will have to identify any measures or features of the project proposed by the developer which will mitigate impacts of the development.
The EIA will have to be prepared by “competent experts” and the local authority will have to have access to “sufficient expertise” to examine it, which could prove challenging for those local authorities without sufficient resources. Where planning permission is granted for EIA development, member states will have to ensure that any envisaged mitigation measures are implemented by the developer and that procedures are in place for monitoring the impacts of the development. Member states will also have to introduce penalties for breach of the EIA rules.
Compliance with these more demanding requirements may help to reduce the risk of challenge to a planning permission on environmental grounds although member states have until 16 May 2017 to incorporate the directive into national legislation and any projects that have been screened or have submitted an environmental statement before that date will only need to comply with the existing regulations.