Post- Brexit Planning: the DLUHC’s Proposals to Speed Up Environmental Assessments
The DLUHC’s proposals to replace the EU-derived Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment regimes with the Environmental Outcomes Report (EOR) was consulted on earlier this year and has since been included in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act. It is acknowledged that shortcomings have been identified with the current system in terms of the volume of documentation produced, the financial and time constraints created by the threat of legal challenge and the duplication of work required by overlapping regimes.
The EOR system is based on an ‘outcomes’ approach focused on streamlining the assessment process and seeking to demonstrate how these outcomes are met using nationally set ‘indicators’. For developers it is intended this provides greater certainty as to what is required earlier in the process, avoiding unnecessary costs and meaning they can focus on incorporating environmental considerations into their schemes while for decision makers the provision of clearer information and stronger mitigation measures should help in the making of robust decisions.
It appears however that the content of environmental assessment will not greatly change in practice, while the aim to streamline is a concern given the lack of clarity currently provided by DLUHC on what is required. We currently see issues with local planning authorities in relation to capacity and resourcing and it is not clear how this new environmental outcome report regime will make this any easier for them.