Following consultation last Autumn on draft regulations, the Government has recently laid before Parliament the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011, SI 1824/2011. The effect of these Regulations, which will come into force on 24 August 2011, is both to consolidate existing legislation and at the same time to bring into force a series of minor changes to the EIA regime. The essence of those changes is as follows.
- There is to be a relaxation of the requirement introduced in 2008 in relation to the screening process in the case of multistage consents. Screening will be required only where the proposal is likely to have significant effects on the environment which were not identified at the time that planning permission was originally granted.
- In relation to negative screening decisions, there is to be a new requirement for the provision of reasons in writing for the decision, and such reasons are to be made available for public inspection.
- There will be clarification that any person may ask the Secretary of State to make a screening direction.
- New rules will require that, in relation to changes or extensions to existing development, the effects of the development as a whole once modified are assessed, rather than just the modification.
When the draft regulations were published for consultation last Autumn, we drew attention to three points arising. Those points remain pertinent today, now that the Regulations are shortly to come into effect. They are:
- In relation to changes and extensions to existing schemes, considerable additional work may now be required from developers and LPAs at the second stage of the process - i.e. the point where the change or extension is sought. This is because of the need to consider carefully the effects of that change or extension together with the effects of the development as constructed. In this context it is conceivable, for example, that changes in baseline conditions in relation to matters such as traffic or noise levels will need to be taken into account and the original assessment updating as a result. Such work could be costly, time consuming and complex.
- The new requirement on LPAs to provide reasons for negative screening decisions is likely to have two results in particular: (i) those LPAs are likely to take additional care in carrying out screening work; and (ii) there will be a new opportunity for opponents of development schemes to delay or frustrate them by complaining to the High Court that the reasons provided are inadequate.
- Again, there is still no sign of the guidance - now promised for [how many years Mike?] on the 2008 amendments dealing with "subsequent applications".