All posts tagged environmental impact assessment

Public Consultation on a major new biomass plant got under way this week with members of the public having the chance to attend consultation events at The Forum in Billingham and Port Clarences Community Centre. The new power station will be fuelled by waste wood and will be located on land adjacent to Koppers, opposite the Riverside Stadium on the North Bank of the Tees. 

The planning application for the plant will be submitted to Stockton Council early in the New Year and the consultation exercise will run until 3rd January. Anyone wanting to view the exhibition on line can go to; http://www.resultscommunications.co.uk/consultations/01%20Teesside%20Renewable%20Energy%20Plant_031213.pdf.

Prism Planning are coordinating a multidisciplinary team of development professionals to ensure that the planning application is both comprehensive and easily understood.

Watch this space for more exiting news of this £160 million project.

We wrote back in April about the impacts of an EU ruling which effectively includes demolition in the definition of development used to over-arch the EIA statute. Now if that all sounds like gobbledygook to you don’t worry, we’re going to explain… This places significant hurdles in front of the UK’s faltering construction industry, which already wrestles with an abundance of red tape.

…But what is EIA you ask?

It is a Directive which has been placed upon the UK through European Law. It requires a detailed assessment of the effects of appropriate development projects on the environment prior to development consent being granted. Quite importantly, the requirement to undergo an EIA, or an assessment into if an EIA is necessary is not discretionary for certain ‘types’ of development. If you are unsure on this point, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. The team at Prism is here to help!

The resulting document aims to ensure that the decision maker for a project makes a proper judgement in the full knowledge of any likely significant effects on the environment.

The task of undergoing an EIA is extremely procedural with a number of ‘hoops to be jumped through’ in order to satisfy the regulations. The most frequently referred to are Screening and Scoping. Screening is the process of determining if an EIA is necessary for an application and considers Schedule 1, 2 and 3 of the regulations. Scoping follows the screening in determining what needs to be included in the baseline assessment and analysis of the findings.

…and how is that Changing?

Prospective applicants can formally request the Local Planning Authority to undertake a Screening and Scoping opinion. The answers which result from such a request are fundamental and can, ultimately, undermine the work which follows if not completed correctly or to a satisfied standard. This change comes through the increasing threat of objectors mounting Judicial reviews.

On this point, the message is simple – to avoid the chance of Judicial Review quashing otherwise sound planning permissions, you must ensure that the evidence base on which a decision is given is sound, even if this has come from the Planning Authority themselves.

The second change shows its head through significant amount of case law developing on EIA. These developments have prompted Communities and Local Governments to undergo a consolidation of the EIA regulations 1999 along with some ‘tweaks’ to the statute. The consultation (which has now closed) can be found here.

These updated regulations are due late June early July (2011) but within the tweaks are some alarmingly profound changes to the thresholds of developments appearing in Schedule 2, within which Screening must be sought.

The proposed changes include:

  1. When submitting an application change/extend an existing development, the thresholds will be applied to the development as a whole once modified.
  2. Any change to a Schedule 1 development will be subject to its own EIA independently of whether the development is included in Schedule 1, 2 or 3.
  3. If an EIA Screening decision comes back negative (ie. Screening is not required) then the correct justification must be given, just as if the screening was required.
  4. If an application has been awarded outline permission but the EIA covers all the aspects of any matters reserved. It will no longer be necessary to re-consult on that same EIA.
  5. Changes to the threshold levels for wind farms to require EIA for the installation of more than 2 turbines; or where the total height of any turbine (including the rotor blade) exceeds 18 metres in height.
  6. New development categories to be added to Schedule 1 and 2 as required through the recent EIA Directive 2009/31/EC

For many years now we have had a system of controls over the demolition of buildings. In very simple terms, if demolition of a house has been proposed, the Council have had to give a ‘prior approval’ to the demolition although in nearly all other cases we have been able to simply get on with demolition of other building.

This has been quite handy over the last couple of years as business rates have started to bite on empty industrial buildings. Its been quite a boom time for the demolition sector as a result.

There has however just been a new Court of Appeal decision that will seemingly lead to far reaching changes to our current ability to ‘wack and drop’ unused commercial buildings. In a new landmark ruling the Court has said that before undertaking demolitions, it must be determined whether the demolition would have a significant environmental impact and if necessary an Environmental Impact Assessment must be produced and signed off by the Council. This means that demolition contractors and owners of buildings due for demolition will no longer enjoy the freedom to simply ‘get on with the job’ in hand.

The ruling will not only result in some demolitions requiring EIA but will also result in most other demolitions having to go through a formal notification process with the LPA.

A significant amount of red tape and potential delay has just been introduced into what was previously a fairly straightforward and simple process. Admittedly this red tape hasn’t been introduced by the Government –they are the victims of it as much as the demolition contractors and we await their reaction to what will surely be an unwelcome bit of news. However it certainly isn’t going to help the recovery of the property sector which is still lagging way behind the rest of the economic sectors and needs every boost it can possibly get.

To avoid getting into hot water, anyone thinking about demolitions would be well advised to seek specialist advice from a suitable planning consultant –such as Prism!