Ecological Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental effects of a proposed project or development. An EIA is required for developments that meet the criteria listed on Schedule 1, or that exceed the thresholds listed on Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning (EIA) Regulations (2011). These include nationally significant infrastructure projects and large housing developments of more than 1000 dwellings. The findings of the formal EIA process are summarised in an Environmental Statement (ES), which normally includes a chapter dedicated to ecology, known as an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA).
Ecological Impact Assessment is the process used to evaluate the importance of ecological features on a site and the likely effect of development on those features. Although an EcIA is normally included as part of an EIA, it can also be used outside of the EIA process where a competent authority requires further information to discharge their obligations under the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2010.
The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) guidelines (CIEEM, 2016) state that the first step in conducting an EcIA is to collate robust preliminary information. This includes ascertaining the location of nearby designated sites and the suitability of habitats within the development site to support protected species of flora and fauna. Development activities that will occur throughout the lifetime of the scheme are also considered at this stage to identify any actions likely to cause significant effects. This information can then be used to identify the zone of influence for each phase of development and determine what ecological features should be scoped into the full EcIA.
Ecological Impact Assessment is iterative process that evolves as new information becomes available. Avoidance and mitigation measures should be incorporated at the development design stage to alleviate significant effects as they are identified. The effects of the development can then be re-evaluated to identify residual effects and where required, the need for ecological compensation.