Consultation On The Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Department of the Environment (the 'DOE') has announced the publication of a consultation paper seeking views on proposals for consolidating and amending the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999 and 2008 as amended (the 'EIA Regulations'), which apply Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, to the planning process in Northern Ireland. Under the EIA Regulations certain plans and projects that are likely to have a significant effect on the environment must undergo an environmental impact assessment prior to the grant of development consent. The objective of the consultation, according to the Minister, Mr. Attwood, is to 'speed up the inquiry process for major planning applications and make planning regulations easier to understand [and] use'.

The proposed amendments seek to update the EIA Regulations to take account of recent case law while also making them more accessible. In brief, the key proposals include:

Change or extension of existing Schedule 2 development

For all development listed in Schedule 2 of the EIA Regulations, an EIA is a requirement where the proposed development is 'likely to give rise to significant environmental effects'. It is proposed that the Schedule 2 thresholds will apply to the development as a whole once modified, and not just to the change or extension. While this will clarify where exactly the precise boundary of an altered or extended development is said to fall, it will result in a greater number of applications requiring EIA assessment.

Change or extension of Schedule 1 Development

An EIA must be carried out for all Schedule 1 development. As currently drafted the proposal requires that any change or extension to an existing or approved Schedule 1 plan or project must itself be screened for EIA even where the change of extension is not Schedule 1 development in its own right. This removes the separate thresholds which currently apply to changes of extensions to Schedule 1 development.

Negative Screening

Where the DOE determines that EIA is not required, the consultation proposes that it shall be required, on request, to make available the reasons for that decision. This effectively opens up the EIA screening process to interested parties.

Multi-Stage Consents

This amendment removes the requirement for public consultation on an environmental statement ('ES') at outline planning stage and...

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