HC Deb 18 December 2001 vol 377 cc278-9W
Mr. Todd

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many responses she has had to the consultation on the proposed regulations concerning environmental impact assessments on uncultivated land; what research she has commissioned on how other EU member states implement these regulations; and if she will make a statement. [22460]

Alun Michael

The Government gave a commitment in the Rural White Paper in November 2000 to consult on the implementation of the uncultivated land provisions of the EIA Directive. Two public consultation exercises have been carried out this year; the first in May on the options for implementation elicited 42 responses; the second in September, with detailed proposals, received 32 responses.

It has not been necessary to formally commission a report on how other EU member states have implemented the regulations, as the Commission has shown a willingness to take any member state to the European Court of Justice should they fail to implement the Directive properly or correctly. Information is also available through agricultural attaches.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (Uncultivated Land and Semi-natural Areas) (England) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 3966), come into force on 1 February 2002. They will require any project to bring uncultivated land and semi-natural areas into intensive agricultural use to be assessed for the likelihood of significant environmental effects. Only where there is a likelihood of significant effects will an environmental statement be required. In case where a project raises environmental concerns, officials will be as helpful as possible to farmers and will seek to agree a way forward which takes account of business needs as well as environmental factors.

Guidelines are to be introduced which explain further the types of land that can be regarded as uncultivated, and an indicative list of the types of projects on that land which will be subject to the regulations. These guidelines will also explain how the scheme is to be administered. The Government are looking for a collaborative approach with farmers, land owners and environmentalists so that the regime can protect the most environmentally significant land without bearing disproportionately heavily on the farming industry.