The Government has issued a consultation paper outlining proposed amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1999. The proposed changes are more of a slight tweak than an extensive overhaul of the existing legislation, and are mainly in response to problems identified by recent case law.

In a recent judgement the Court held that paragraph 13 of Schedule 2 of the Regulations does not properly implement the European Directive from which it originates. At present the environmental effects of an extension to Schedule 2 development are only considered in relation to the expansion itself. To properly comply with the directive it is necessary to consider the development as a whole once modified. Therefore paragraph 13 of the Schedule will be amended so that the thresholds apply to “the development as a whole once changed or extended.” In addition a new proposal will be inserted which will require that any change or extension to a Schedule 1 development (where the change is not a Schedule 1 development in its own right) must also be screened.

Following a ruling in the European Court of Justice it has been confirmed that there is no requirement for an authority to provide reasons for a screening opinion or direction which concludes that Environmental Impact Assessment is not required. The ruling did, however, state that if an interested party requests such information then it must be made available. In response to this the Government is proposing to introduce a new regulation which requires reasons for screening directions to be given even where EIA is not required. This is intended to provide a more balanced and transparent process.

The Government is also proposing to alter the thresholds which determine whether a wind turbine is classed as Schedule 2 development. At present any turbine over 15 metres tall is classed as Schedule 2 development but if the proposals are implemented this will increase to 18 metres. The consultation period on the proposed changes began on 9 August and will run until 25 October 2010.