The DoE's proposals would make use of a section inserted in the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 following pressure from conservation groups. They argued that Britain's existing regulations on EA of projects subject to planning control, introduced in 1988, are limited in that they cannot be extended to cover projects which are not specifically listed in the 1985 EC Directive on EA. The Government relented and included a clause in the Act which provides for other classes of project to be made subject to EA by means of regulations (ENDS Report 195, pp 23-4).
Six of the seven classes of project which the DoE has now proposed should be subject to EA would be "Schedule 2" projects. EA is required for these only when a planning authority believes they will give rise to "significant" environmental effects. For some Schedule 2 projects, official guidance will lay down "indicative criteria". Projects meeting these would be expected to give rise to "significant" effects, although the decision whether to require EA will remain with the planning authority.
The six classes of project concerned are:
The DoE has also proposed that privately financed toll roads should be "Schedule 1" projects, for which EA is mandatory. Only those authorised by the Secretary of State, but not those by local highway authorities, are currently in Schedule 1.
Of the other amendments proposed by the DoE, the most significant would extend a rule requiring an environmental statement to be the subject of consultation with statutory consultees and the general public. The DoE has proposed that where additional information is provided by a developer - whether in response to a formal request by a planning authority, or given voluntarily when it could have been formally requested - this, too, should be the subject of public consultations. The only exception would be where the information was provided for the purpose of a public inquiry.