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EIS’s and SEA’s – a brief introduction to the process

September 20, 2007

Ireland is famous for its green image with a clean, unspoilt and natural environment. It’s a landscape that’s changed significantly over the past decade after a period of unprecedented economic and cultural change. Changing lifestyles, population growth, urbanisation, immigration and phenomena such as European Union membership and the Celtic Tiger, have all impacted on the environment and will continue to do so in the future. So what procedures are in place to ensure that all these changes are managed in a sustainable manner?

What follows here is a quick summary of the processes involved in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). We’ll be adding stuff like this to our resources page on our website, which we hope will become an invaluable resource to not just developers, but anyone who is confused or intimidated by all the environmental and archaeological rules and regulations. If you have any suggestions as to links or resources which are concise and address these rules in a succinct and understandable way, we would be delighted to include them. Indeed if you have a resource you think we should point out we’d be happy to do so.

The most important instrument for ensuring that Ireland’s growth and development is sustainable is the process of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This involves the systematic examination of the likely impacts of development proposals on the environment prior to the beginning of any activity. The aim of an EIA is to identify and describe the environmental impacts which a proposal or project may have, and to guide appropriate design and management so as to avoid, reduce or mitigate against these impacts. It also allows the public to contribute their knowledge and express any environmental concerns and be involved in the consultation process.

Ireland has had a form of EIA since 1963, largely related to the issue of pollution from large scale projects. However, it was not required for smaller public developments and lacked a clear definition of the environment. Subsequently, Irelands membership into the European Union provided for the incorporation of European Communities Directive 85/337/EEC (commonly called the EIA Directive) into Irish Law. It set out the detailed requirements for EIA in respect of applications for planning permission and planning appeals and has the potential to have far reaching implications for both public and private developments in Ireland, whether they be industrial, land drainage, afforestation, agriculture, motorway or other projects.

An EIA is required for particular types or sizes of development, or where the competent authority considers that a development would be likely to have significant effects on the environment. All major projects, and the majority of minor ones, are required to demonstrate that the design, building and operation will be undertaken in an environmentally acceptable and sustainable way. Achieving this requires pragmatic solutions to both developmental and environmental changes, and involves the effective use of available information and predictive techniques to evaluate the management and operational strategies.

Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), a requirement of the SEA Directive 2001/42/EC, is part of the second phase of Directives and was incorporated in Irish Law during 2004. Since then, an SEA has been required for higher-level plans or programmes proposed at a local, regional or national level, such as rezoning, regional road systems, energy distribution schemes etc. The environmental effects of these proposals must be examined in advance of their implementation, and must be incorporated into the design and decision-making process.

Moore Environmental Services provides professional and specialist services utilising knowledge of the relevant legislation and standards, and interpretation of specialist documentation of the construction sector in order to advise local authorities, planners, designers and other specialists in a clear and comprehensive manner on the likely significant adverse impacts of a proposal and the mitigation measures which would ameliorate those impacts. We provide complete project management of EIAs/EISs from effective screening and scoping through the process to the production of a professionally presented comprehensive document in fulfilment of planning applications.

For more information contact Ger O’Donohoe, Environmental Section Manager, on (091) 765 640 or email: info@mooregroup.ie.

Reference: Council of the European Communities (1995) Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects in the environment, 85/337/EEC.

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