Certain developments must be assessed for likely environmental effects before planning permission can be granted. This document provides a brief overview of the procedures involved in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It also helps identify which developments require an EIA and acts a simple guide to Environment Impact Statements (EIS), which form the basis of EIA.
Environmental Impact Assessment
The Document is intended as a practical guide to the operation of the procedures which apply where an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required as part of a planning application. It is not a definitive interpretation of planning law. For more information you should contact your local planning authority.
Submitting a Planning Application
When submitting a planning application for such a development, the applicant must also submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Projects needing environmental impact assessment are listed in Schedule 5of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. Under article 103 of those Regulations, planning authorities are required to request an EIS where the threshold limits in the Regulations are not exceeded, but where the planning authority considers that the proposed development is likely to have significant environmental effects. The decision as to whether a development is likely to have significant effects on the environment must be taken with reference to the criteria set out in Schedule 7of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.
The EIA requirements under planning legislation have been consolidated into Part X of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and Part 10of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.
In Addition to Planning Permission
Certain activities may also require an integrated pollution control (IPC) licence or a waste licence from the Environmental Protection Agency. Other consent requirements may also arise in the context of mining activities or development on the foreshore. Click on the associated links section on this page for further information on IPC and waste licensing requirements.
What is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a procedure for: systematic examination of the likely significant effects on the environment of a proposed development; ensuring that adequate consideration is given to any such effects; and avoiding, reducing or offsetting any significant adverse effects. The process begins with the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the developer. Active public involvement in the assessment of the EIS is encouraged. The assessment procedure is carried out by the planning authority as part of the processing of the relevant planning application and by An Bord Pleanála in the event of an appeal. The EIA procedure is designed to ensure that measures to improve a proposal can be taken at the earliest opportunity.
What types of development require EIA?
Generally, large-scale developments, including agriculture, food industry, chemical industry, infrastructure and urban developments, require an EIA. In some cases, EIA is mandatory irrespective of the size of the project. In most cases, however, a threshold is set and if this is exceeded, the project must be subject to EIA. Even if thresholds are not exceeded, the planning authority (or An Bord Pleanála in the case of a planning appeal) must require the preparation of an EIS if it considers that the project would have significant effects on the environment. The full list of projects and threshold limits are set out in Schedule 5 to the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 to 2002.
How does EIA work?
The developer prepares an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is submitted with the planning application for assessment as part of the planning authority's consideration of the application. (It is not possible to apply for outline permission in EIA cases because of the type of detailed information required in an EIS). The newspaper and site notices relating to the planning application must refer to the EIS. The EIS is available for inspection and purchase at the offices of the planning authority. Any member of the public or any organisation may comment on the project and its possible environmental effects on payment of the required fee. These comments must be taken into account by the planning authority. The decision of the planning authority on the application can be appealed to An Bord Pleanála in the normal way.
What is an EIS?
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should contain an analysis of the likely effects, good and bad, of a project on the environment. It will set out any measures to be taken to avoid or moderate any adverse environmental effects and should identify decisions already taken by the developer for this purpose.
What does an EIS include?
It must include:
- A description of the proposed development;
- An outline of alternatives (e.g. processes or locations) studied by the developer;
- Data necessary to identify and assess the main effects which it is likely to have on the environment; and
- A description of these effects by reference to many factors such as people, flora, fauna, soil, water, air, landscape, cultural heritage, etc.
Where significant adverse effects are identified, the statement must also include:
- A description of the measures envisaged to avoid, reduce or remedy these effects.
The EIS must contain a non-technical summary so that it can be understood by the layperson.
Do I need help preparing an EIS?
EIS's can be complex documents, sometimes of a highly technical nature. It will almost certainly be necessary to engage experts in various fields when preparing an EIS. You are strongly advised to contact the planning authority for pre-application consultations if your proposal involves preparation of an EIS. These will help you scope the EIS i.e. help identify which aspects should be covered, the amount of detail required and relevant agencies who should be consulted e.g. EPA, Dúchas. Careful scoping will ensure that your EIS addresses all-important issues, and will help avoid requests for further information, which could delay a decision on your application. The EPA has published Guidelines on the Information to be contained in Environmental Impact Statements. Regard must be had to EPA Guidelines when preparing an EIS. For further information on the Guidelines you may contact the Environmental Protection Agency at its website through the associated links section on this page.
How long does the EIA process take?
A planning authority must decide an application with an EIS within 8 weeks of its receipt, or where further information has been requested from the applicant, within 8 weeks of receipt of that information.
For further information on this subject, please refer to A Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment in the associated downloads section on this page, or visit the Department of the Environment Website through the associated links section also on this page.