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Introducing Environmental Impact Assessment

EIA Regulations

The Town & Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 (Statutory Instrument 2011 No. 1824) – also known as the EIA Regulations – form part of the development control system in England and relate to certain types of development. Surrey County Council is responsible for determining planning applications for minerals development (e.g. quarries, tile works, etc.), waste management (e.g. landfill sites, recycling centres, etc.), and 'County' development (e.g. construction projects relating to schools and certain types of roads).

The EIA Regulations relate to a European Union Directive (Directive 85/337/EEC as amended), and give planning authorities a means of ensuring that they can take account of the environmental implications of individual developments in their decisions on planning applications.

The EIA Regulations place a number of responsibilities on planning authorities, which relate to the different stages of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.

Stage 1: Screening to determine whether EIA is required

The EIA Regulations only apply to certain types of development, and before the County Council can request an EIA it must determine whether the proposal is subject to the Regulations and can be classified as 'EIA development', and decide whether EIA is required in that particular case. This process is called 'screening' and there are two ways in which it can be applied:

  1. A developer can ask the planning authority to give an EIA screening opinion before the application for planning permission is submitted.
  2. Where a planning application has been submitted without an environmental statement and alternatively no request has been made in the past for a screening opinion, the planning authority has the right to adopt an EIA screening opinion for the proposal, which will determine whether or not the scheme requires EIA.

In either case the planning authority has 3 weeks within which to adopt their EIA screening opinion from the date on which the request was received (for (1) above) or the planning application was deemed to be valid (for (2) above). In both cases the 3 week period can be extended, if the developer agrees in writing to the extension. Once the screening opinion has been adopted it is placed on the Planning Register of the relevant district or borough council.

Stage 2: Scoping to determine what information should be covered by an EIA

Where a proposed scheme is determined to be 'EIA development', the developer can ask the planning authority for advice on the scope of the information to be gathered during the EIA and to be covered in the Environmental Statement (which reports on the findings of the EIA).

The planning authority has a period of 5 weeks within which to produce an EIA scoping opinion, which can be extended if the developer agrees in writing to the extension. The planning authority is legally required to consult with the Environment Agency, Natural England, and English Heritage, and with the district council or borough council for the area within which the scheme would be located. Once the scoping opinion has been adopted it is placed on the Planning Register of the relevant district or borough council.

Stage 3: Reviewing the adequacy of environmental statements

Where an environmental statement has been submitted with a planning application the planning authority can request additional information if it considers the environmental statement to be inadequate. The adequacy of environmental statements is determined by comparison with the content requirements of the EIA Regulations.

For more information…

The Town & Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 can be found on the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.

Information on the European Union Directive from which the requirements for EIA arise can be found on the website of the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment.

To provide further information about EIA to developers and the public Surrey County Council has produced a number of brief guidance notes, which can be downloaded by following the links below.

If you have any questions relating to the guidance please contact us.

Files available to download