Why do I need an Environmental Impact Assessment ?
Environmental Impact Assessments enable environmental factors to be given due weight along with economic or social factor when planning applications are being considered. It helps to promote a sustainable pattern of physical development, land and property use in cities, towns and the countryside. If properly carried out, it benefits all those involved in the planning process.
Developer – From the developer’s point of view the preparation of an environmental statement in parallel with project design provides a useful framework within which environmental considerations and design development can interact. Environmental analysis may indicate ways in which the project can be modified to avoid possible adverse effects, for example through considering more environmentally friendly alternatives. Taking these steps is likely to make the formal planning approval stages run more smoothly.
Planning authority – For the planning authority and other public bodies with environmental responsibilities, environmental impact assessment provides a basis for better decision making. More thorough analysis of the implications of a new project before a planning application is made, and the provision of more comprehensive information with the application, should enable authorities to make swifter decisions. While the responsibility for compiling the environmental statement rests with the developer, it is expected that the developer will consult those with relevant information, and the regulations specifically require that public authorities which have information in their possession which is relevant to the preparation of the environmental statement should make it available to the developer.
General Public – The general public’s interest in a major project is often expressed as concern about the possibility of unknown or unforeseen effects. By providing a full analysis of a project’s effects, an environmental statement can help to allay fears created by lack of information. At the same time, early engagement with the public when plans are still fluid can enable developers to make adjustments which will help to secure a smoother passage for the proposed development and result in a better environmental outcome. The environmental statement can also help to inform the public on the substantive issues which the local planning authority will have to consider in reaching a decision. It is a requirement of the Regulations that the environmental statement must include a description of the project and its likely effects together with a summary in non-technical language. One of the aims of a good environmental statement should be to enable readers to understand for themselves how its conclusions have been reached and to form their own judgments on the significance of the environmental issues raised by the project.
Environmental Assessments can therefore be helpful to all those concerned with projects.