How to legally conduct an environmental impact assessment for a new construction project in the UK?

11 June 2024

As you plan to undertake a new construction project in the UK, one crucial requirement you need to fulfill is the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It is an essential planning and development tool used to identify, predict, and evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project. The EIA aims to incorporate environmental considerations into the decision-making process, ensuring sustainable development. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the legal process of conducting an EIA for your new construction project in the UK.

Understanding the EIA process

The EIA process may seem daunting, but understanding each step can help facilitate the procedure. The EIA is a systematic process that goes through several stages: screening, scoping, impact analysis, mitigation, reporting, decision-making, and post-project monitoring.


Screening is the first step in the EIA process. It is a preliminary analysis to determine if the proposed project will require an EIA according to the UK's EIA regulations. If your project falls under Schedule 1 of the EIA regulations, it will automatically require an EIA. However, if it falls under Schedule 2, the need for an EIA will be determined based on thresholds/criteria set out in the EIA Regulations. The competent authority – usually the local planning authority – will decide whether an EIA is needed. At this stage, you should register your intent to carry out an EIA with the relevant authority.


If an EIA is required, the next step is scoping. This crucial stage determines the key environmental issues to be studied in depth and those to be excluded from the study. It also identifies the assessment methods to be used. This process may involve consultations with the local authority and other key stakeholders. It would be best if you prepared a scoping report outlining the proposed scope of the EIA and submit it to the relevant authority.

Creating the Environmental Statement

The Environmental Statement (ES) is the main output of the EIA process. It is a detailed report documenting the potential environmental impacts of the proposed development, the methods used to assess these impacts, and the measures to mitigate negative impacts.

Conducting the Impact Analysis

The impact analysis is a detailed study of the potential environmental effects of the development. It covers a wide range of factors, including noise, air quality, traffic, biodiversity, landscape, water resources, and cultural heritage. The analysis should be thorough, systematic, and unbiased. It must adhere to the relevant EIA regulations and guidelines to produce reliable results that can inform decision-making.

Proposing Mitigation Measures

After conducting the impact analysis, the next step is to propose mitigation measures for any significant negative impacts identified. These measures aim to reduce, eliminate, or compensate for these impacts. They may involve redesigning the project, implementing best management practices, or proposing compensatory measures.

Submitting the EIA Application

Once you have prepared the ES, the next step is to submit the EIA application to the relevant authority. It must include the ES and a non-technical summary that presents the findings in a manner understandable to the layperson.

Meeting Submission Requirements

When preparing your EIA application, ensure you meet all the submission requirements set by the authority. This includes ensuring the ES is in the correct format, contains all the necessary information, and is accompanied by the necessary documents. Failure to do so may lead to delays or even rejection of your application.

Navigating the Review Process

After submitting your application, the authority will review the ES and other submitted documents. This review process may involve public consultations, where members of the public and other stakeholders are given an opportunity to comment on the proposed development and its potential environmental impacts. You may be required to respond to comments or concerns raised during these consultations.

Remember, conducting an EIA is a legal requirement for certain construction projects in the UK. However, it can also offer valuable insights into how your proposed development can coexist with the environment in a sustainable way. So, take your time, follow the law, and contribute positively to the environment.

The Role of Planning Authorities

Planning authorities play a critical role in the EIA process. They are tasked with reviewing the EIA application, including the Environmental Statement, and making the final decision on whether to approve the proposed development. The local planning authority is usually the competent authority responsible for making this decision.

In undertaking this role, the planning authority must ensure that the EIA has been conducted in accordance with the EIA regulations. This includes ensuring that the screening and scoping processes have been done correctly, the impact assessment is thorough and unbiased, and appropriate mitigation measures have been proposed.

The planning authority may also issue a screening opinion or screening direction, which is a formal decision on whether an EIA is required for a proposed project. If you are unsure whether an EIA is required for your project, you can request a screening opinion from the planning authority.

In addition to the screening opinion, the planning authority may also issue a scoping opinion. This is a formal opinion on what issues should be included in the EIA. It is based on a review of the scoping report provided by the project developer.

The planning authority's decision on the EIA application forms part of the overall planning decision for the proposed development. This decision is made in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act and related regulations.

The Role of the Secretary of State

In some cases, the Secretary of State may play a role in the EIA process. The Secretary of State has the power to issue screening directions for Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 projects, which determine whether an EIA is required. Additionally, if a local planning authority decides that an EIA is not required for a Schedule 2 project, the Secretary of State can overrule this decision and require an EIA.

The Secretary of State can also call in a planning application for his or her own determination. This means that the Secretary of State, rather than the local planning authority, will make the final decision on the application. This power is used sparingly, usually for projects of national importance.


The Environmental Impact Assessment is a key part of the planning process for construction projects in the UK. It ensures that the environmental implications of a proposed development are fully considered before a decision is made. This guide has walked you through each step of the EIA process, from screening and scoping to submitting the EIA application.

The role of planning authorities and the Secretary of State is crucial in this process. Their responsibility is to ensure that the EIA is conducted in compliance with EIA regulations, and that the potential environmental impacts of the proposed development are adequately addressed.

Conducting an EIA should not be seen as merely a regulatory hurdle. It offers valuable insights into how a proposed development can be designed and implemented in a manner that is sustainable and respectful of the environment. So, take your time, follow the law, and make a positive contribution to the environment.

Copyright 2024. All Rights Reserved