HC Deb 16 December 1992 vol 216 cc320-1W
Mr. Trend

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to implement proposals for extending environmental assessment to additional projects under the powers enacted in section 15 of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991.

Sir George Young

We received 142 responses to the consultation paper issued on 30 June 1992. A list of the responses has been sent to the Libraries of both Houses and copies of the responses have been placed in the Department of the Environment library at 2 Marsham street.

The proposals have been generally welcomed. There were no overall objections, and only seven objections to individual proposals. In the light of these responses my right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales propose to amend the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988 to incorporate the seven new categories of project proposed in the consultation paper. Amending regulations, which will place minimal demands upon local planning authorities, will be laid in the new year and an explanatory circular will be issued.

Under the new arrangements, the following categories of project will be added to those in schedule 2 to the regulations, the effect of which will be to require environmental assessment—EA—where a particular proposal is likely to have significant environmental effects:

  • —Trout farming
  • —Water treatment plant
  • —Wind generators
  • —Motorway service areas; and service areas on other roads providing fuelling and restaurant facilities
  • —Coast protection works
  • —Golf courses

It is also proposed to amend schedule I to the regulations to include privately financed toll roads; the effect of this will be to require environmental assessment for all projects of this kind.

A number of comments were received on the indicative criteria to be included in accompanying guidance, to help authorities in determining whether to require EA for a particular schedule 2 project. These comments will be taken into account in preparing guidance to accompany the amending regulations. The guidance will stress, however, that the test of whether a schedule 2 project requires EA is, in all cases, whether the proposed development would be likely to have significant effects on the environment.

In addition to extending the scope of environmental assessment, we intend to make some technical amendments to clarify the application of the existing requirements of directive 85/337/EEC on environmental impact assessment, EIA. First, as proposed in the consultation paper, the developer will be required to deposit additional copies of the environmental statement with the Secretary of State; and a provision will require information supplementary to the environmental statement provided by the developer, in response to a formal request from the decision-making authority, to be advertised and forwarded to statutory consultees. Other changes will make clear the precise requirements of article 2(3) of the directive apply concerning exemptions; and require the competent authority to confirm in writing when notifying its decision that it has taken the environmental information into consideration.

Similar amendments are planned by other Government Departments in their regulations implementing directive 85/337, together with amendments to clarify the extent of the competent authority's discretion to require EIA for annex II projects. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Northern Ireland will bring forward their own proposals in due course.