This quick guide gives an overview of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). EIA is a procedure that ensures that the environmental implications of developments are taken into account before planning decisions are made. This paper outlines what EIAs are, when they are required, screening, what happens to planning applications without an Environmental Statement, what EIAs have to include, how Environmental Statements are taken into account and the revisions to the EIA Directive.
This briefing provides an overview of the planning enforcement system. It sets out what enforcement is, when enforcement action can take place, types of enforcement action, time limits, Welsh Government enforcement, and appeals against enforcement action. It also sets out how the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 has changed the planning enforcement system.
On Wednesday 12 July, Assembly Members will debate a petition calling for live music venues to be protected. The petition caught the imagination of live music lovers in Wales and collected over 5,000 signatures.
This is the first time an Assembly petition has been signed by over 5,000 people since the new petitions process was introduced in March. The changes allow the Petitions Committee to request an Assembly debate on any petition collecting over 5,000 signatures.
24 February 2017
Article by Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The approach to strategic land use planning in Wales is changing. The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 introduces two new levels of development plan, which will sit above the existing local development plans (LDPs):
- A National Development Framework (NDF) covering the whole of Wales. The NDF will set out the Welsh Government’s policies on development and land use in a spatial context, and replace the Wales Spatial Plan; and
- Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) – these are regional plans that will sit between the NDF and LDPs in certain parts of Wales, and will deal with issues that cut across a number of local planning authority areas (but are not of national significance).
The National Development Framework
The NDF will set out a 20 year land use framework and be reviewed at least every five years. Unlike the Wales Spatial Plan, the NDF will have development plan status, meaning that all SDPs and LDPs must be in conformity with it. The Welsh Government summarises the purpose of the NDF as follows;
- sets out where nationally important growth and infrastructure is needed and how the planning system can deliver it;
- provides direction for SDPs and LDPs;
- supports the determination of applications under the Developments of National Significance (DNS) regime. Further reading on DNS can be found in our DNS briefing (PDF 498KB);
- sits alongside Planning Policy Wales, which sets out the Welsh Government’s national planning policies and will continue to provide the context for land use planning; and
- supports national economic, transport, environmental, housing, energy and cultural strategies and ensure they can be delivered through the planning system.
The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 requires the draft NDF to be considered by the National Assembly before the final NDF is published.
The Assembly will have 60 days (excluding recess) to consider the draft NDF. The Welsh Government must take account of any resolution or recommendations made by the Assembly, or any of its committees, in deciding whether or not the draft NDF should be amended.
The Welsh Government must publish a statement alongside the final NDF outlining how it has had regard to the Assembly’s resolutions or recommendations.
The current timetable (below) shows the draft NDF being considered by the Assembly in October – December 2019. The final NDF is due to be published in March 2020.
Call for evidence and projects
The Welsh Government is currently undertaking a call for evidence and projects (7 December 2016 to 7 March 2017) to help inform the development of the NDF.
The consultation is asking for national level evidence and projects that will help Wales meet its various national objectives. It gives the following as examples that could be relevant to the NDF:
- all-Wales studies looking at the potential for renewable energy generation, connectivity issues between different parts of Wales, environmental issues covering multiple regions; and
- issues which relate to a geographically smaller area but which are of national significance, such as power stations or nationally important habitats.
Evidence and projects submitted will be considered in the context of the development planning system and against the seven Well-being goals, as set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
The consultation document says the Welsh Government will publish details of the evidence and projects that are submitted, and also publish a summary of its assessment of them. However, no timescale is given for when this is intended to be done.
Statement of Public Participation
The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 requires the Welsh Government to publish a Statement of Public Participation setting out how it will consult with the public during the development of the NDF. This document was published in November 2016 following consultation in early 2016.
The Statement of Public Participation shows there will be two further 12 week stages of public consultation, prior to the draft NDF being considered by the Assembly.
The full NDF timetable is as follows:
The Nature Directives are two key pieces of EU legislation that underpin the protection of wildlife and habitats – often considered the cornerstones of environmental law in Europe.
When the European Commission announced in 2014 it was evaluating these Directives via a ‘Fitness Check’, it was met with an unprecedented reaction: there were over 550,000 responses from the public.
Views on the Nature Directives came from far and wide across the EU. So what exactly are these Directives? And what was the outcome of the evaluation?
The Nature Directives
The Fitness Check focussed on the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive, collectively known as the ‘Nature Directives’. They protect more than 1,400 threatened species and nearly 1.15 million square kilometres of habitat in Europe.
The Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) is the oldest piece of EU environmental legislation, first created in 1979. Its purpose is to protect the 500 wild bird species which are native to the EU, their eggs, nests and habitats. Measures include the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to protect habitats for endangered or migratory species.
The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) was adopted in 1992. It provides protection for over 1000 animal and plant species and 200 habitat types. A key part is the designation of significant habitats as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
The Habitats Directive brings together SACs and SPAs into the Natura 2000 network, a coherent ecological network of protected sites.
Despite these protection measures, biodiversity loss within the EU remains a concern. The State of Nature Report 2016 , for example, found that one in 14 species in Wales is heading for extinction. More information on the report can be found in a previous In Brief blog post.
The Nature Directives in Wales
The provisions of the Directives are implemented through a range of legislation including the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations (Natural Habitats, & c.) 2007 (as amended).
In 2015, the UK had 924 Natura 2000 sites, covering 95,106 square kilometres (8.54%) of terrestrial and marine land. Wales currently has 20 SPAS and 92 SACs. More information can be found on the websites of Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government.
The Fitness Check
The Fitness Check forms part of a wider effort known as REFIT – the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. REFIT aims to review the entire stock of EU legislation to ensure it is simple, fit-for-purpose, and that it delivers its intended benefits.
The Fitness Check assessed the Nature Directives against 5 main criteria:
- Effectiveness – have the objectives of the legislation been met?
- Efficiency – were the costs involved reasonable?
- Coherence – is the legislation contradicting or complementing other policy and legislation?
- Relevance – is EU action still necessary?
- EU added value – could similar changes have been achieved at national or regional level, or did EU action provide clear added value?
The substantial public response was largely due to campaigning by environmental NGOs. The ‘Nature Alert’ coalition, for example, brought together over 120 European NGOs, and was responsible for 90% of responses from the public. Campaigns were also carried out by alliances in other sectors such as landowners, forestry and hunting. Reponses were also submitted by the private sector including commerce and energy companies.
Key facts and figures
In the Fitness Check evaluation report (PDF 1.98MB) key figures include:
- 552,472 responses to the public consultation;
- 105,033 (19.0%) of these came from the UK, making the UK response the second highest after Germany (which had 106,357);
- in 2011, the Natura 2000 network directly and indirectly supported between 4.5 and 8 million jobs across the EU; and
- the estimated cost of implementing Natura 2000 across the EU is at least €5.8 billion (£5.1 billion) per year, while the benefits are valued at €200 – 300 billion (£173 – 260 billion) per year.
In December 2016, the European Commission published the outcome of the Fitness Check. Whilst concluding that the Directives are fit for purpose, it also identified scope for improvement in implementation:
Within the framework of broader biodiversity policy the Nature Directives are fit for purpose but fully achieving their objectives and realising their full potential will depend on substantial improvement in their implementation in relation to both effectiveness and efficiency, working in partnership with different stakeholder communities in the Member States and across the EU, to deliver practical results on the ground.
The European Commission announced on 7 December 2016 that it would uphold the Directives and develop an Action Plan to tackle some of the implementation challenges which had been identified.
Brexit and nature conservation
The Fitness Check has highlighted the important role that the Nature Directives play in nature conservation. In the context of the proposed UK withdrawal from the EU, what does the future hold for nature conservation in Wales?
To help answer this question, Assembly Committees have been examining the potential implications of Brexit for the environment. More information can be found in the In Brief blog post ‘Brexit and the environment: the UK legislature’s preparations for leaving the EU’.
Article by Jeni Spragg, National Assembly for Wales, Research Service
The Research Service acknowledges the parliamentary fellowship provided to Jeni Spragg by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which enabled this blog post to be completed.