Mr. Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has published updated guidelines for planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála on carrying out environmental impact assessment.
The publication of the Guidelines coincides with the coming into operation on 1 September 2018 of most of the provisions of the European Union (Planning and Development) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 296 of 2018), which were signed by Minister Murphy on 26 July 2018. These Regulations transpose the requirements of Directive 2014/52/EU, amending previous Directive 2011/52/EU, on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (the EIA Directive) into planning law.
Key amendments to environmental impact assessment procedures in the planning system arising from the 2014 Directive include:
- Reduced administrative burdens, through the use of joint or coordinated procedures when Appropriate Assessment is required;
- The broadening of environmental factors to be considered in the assessment – population and human health, resource efficiency, climate change, biodiversity and disaster prevention;
- Strengthened screening procedures to determine whether EIA is required in respect of development consent proposals;
- Expansion of the information to be contained in the re-titled Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR);
- A requirement for the developer to employ or engage competent experts to prepare an EIAR and for planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have, or have access to, sufficient expertise to examine such reports;
- Decisions of planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála on development proposals must include a reasoned conclusion on the significant effects of the project on the environment;
- Enhanced requirements for public access to information, including by electronic means;
- Requirements to put arrangements in place to avoid, prevent or reduce and, if possible, offset significant adverse effects of a proposed development on the environment, including monitoring of these, where appropriate.
The Guidelines replace previous Guidelines for Planning Authorities and An Bord Pleanála on carrying out environmental impact assessment published in March 2013. The updated Guidelines are issued by the Minister under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and accordingly planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála are required to have regard to them in determining planning applications and appeals.
Minister Murphy stated: “The new EIA regulations and associated Guidelines aim to ensure compliance with the highest international standards in relation to taking environmental factors into account when determining development proposals and ensuring that environmental considerations are fully addressed as part of the planning process, as well as properly managed thereafter. “The new Guidelines offer practical guidance on procedural issues and the changes to the EIA process arising from the new 2014 Directive, with the overall aim of ensuring a more consistent approach to in the implementation of the Directive within the planning system in Ireland. “The new procedures provided for in the Regulations also enhance public access to information and participation in the planning process for projects where environmental impact assessment arises. The Guidelines should also assist developers, planning consultants, EIA practitioners, NGOs and other participants in the planning process.”