Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

New EU rules on the procedure for environmental impact assessments (EIA) will come into force shortly following the Council of the European Union's adoption of a directive to amend the existing EIA directive this week.

Under the amendments, developers of schemes where an EIA is required will need to submit "a description of the reasonable alternatives studied by the developer, which are relevant to the project and its specific characteristics, and an indication of the main reasons for the option chosen, taking into account the effects of the project on the environment". 

The revised directive also sets out a requirement on local authorities to provide the main reasons for deciding that an EIA is required or is not required for a proposed development. 

"The directive is aimed at ensuring a high level of protection of the environment and human health through the establishment of common minimum requirements for the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The amendments adapt the current directive to the policy, legal and technical contexts, which have evolved considerably," said the Council in a statement. 

The Council said that the amendments will "strengthen and align" the quality of the EIA procedure with the principles of "smart regulation". "In addition, the new directive enhances consistency and synergies with other EU legislation and policies, as well as strategies and policies developed by member states in areas of national competence," it said.

The existing EIA directive is implemented in England and Wales by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. EU member states will have three years to incorporate the revised directive into national legislation once it has entered into force.