As part of the planning process, an environmental impact assessment (commonly known as EIA) is required for all major development schemes or certain projects likely to pose a risk to the environment.
The purpose of an environmental impact assessment is to make sure the environmental effects of a proposed development are properly considered. The assessment enables the local planning authority to make an informed decision about whether permission should be granted and to impose conditions.
Preparing an environmental impact assessment can involve a considerable amount of work and can cause delays and more costs to a project. We recommend early consultation with the local planning authority to decide whether an environmental impact assessment will be required, what it should contain, and what method should be adopted.
Environmental impact assessments are routinely required for major development schemes like power stations, refineries, dams, pipelines and airports. Environmental impact assessments may in addition be required for developments in sensitive or vulnerable locations or unusually complex projects that may cause adverse environmental effects.
If an applicant is uncertain about whether an environmental impact assessment is required, they can request the local planning authority for a decision called a screening opinion (or screening decision). The applicant can also approach the local planning authority for advice about the required scope of the environmental impact assessment; this is termed a scoping opinion (or scoping decision). If the applicant disagrees with these opinions, the case can be transferred to the secretary of state to make the decision.