The European Union (Planning and Development)(Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2018 will come into operation on 1 September 2018.

They seek to transpose EIA Directive 2014/52/EU and to give further effect to the 2011 Directive. They do so by way of extensive amendments to existing planning legislation and a timely consolidation of the legislation would be welcome.

Transitional arrangements are expressly provided for in Section 3 that the existing legislation shall continue to apply in respect of certain EIA scoping and screening requests and determinations and applications for consent made prior to 16 May 2017 – the transposition date for the Directive rather than the date the Regulations come into operation.

These Regulations will require careful consideration. In addition to the anticipated changes amending the information which must be submitted by applicants for permission and the factors which must be considered by the relevant authorities during the screening and EIA process, there are also other interesting changes to the legislation in the EIA context. By way of initial observation:

  • The section 5 referral process has been amended to require the planning authority/the Board to specify whether Annex II category EIA development would be likely to have significant effects on the environment. Procedures are specified for the examination of this issue and, where there is a “significant and realistic doubt” as regards the likelihood of significant effects, information must be submitted to enable the authority to carry out a screening determination. Section 5 determinations, and associated documents, must now also be published electronically for a minimum of 8 weeks following the decision.
  • New obligations are imposed on planning authorities and the Board to provide reasons for imposing environmental conditions which are materially different from those recommended in the planner’s reports and, in the case of grants, to confirm that they are satisfied the information was up to date.
  • Electronic publication of documents is provided for together with the establishment of an EIA portal by the Minister providing summary information on EIA applications and access to them.
  • There are now exceptions to certain time limits contained in the strategic housing development legislation in relation to screening determinations and the assessment of whether the application documentation is inadequate or incomplete.