Revised EIA directive should be scrapped, says government-backed report

European Union plans for an revised Environmental Impact Assessment directive should be scrapped, as part of a raft of measures to boost economic growth across Europe, according to a report by a business taskforce appointed by the Prime Minister.

European Union: taskforce aims to cut 'red tape'
European Union: taskforce aims to cut 'red tape'
The government yesterday said that the task force's report, Cut EU Red Tape, shows how the EU could boost growth "by sweeping away poorly understood and burdensome rules and preventing similarly pointless legislation in the future".

According to the government, the report will "inform" its work "to reform the EU to make it more competitive". It will also "help shape longer-term thinking about the impact of EU regulation on growth in the UK".

Amongst its recommendations is a call for plans for a revised EIA directive to be scrapped.

The report said that the current directive "means developers seeking planning permission for many larger projects must do an EIA. This is a flexible system. It allows European states to set thresholds for screening out projects depending on size, location and impact".

But it says the revised directive "would significantly extend its scope and requirements – effectively making the current screening thresholds redundant. New rules would introduce a pre-screening exercise for all projects, making developers scope exactly what the EIA should cover, and requiring the use of accredited experts.

"In practice, this will mean that thousands of small projects – from installing micro-generation power technologies to setting up specialist micro-breweries – would need to be appraised for their impact on the environment, even if it is clear there is no environmental risk".

The draft proposals were published for consultation last year.

The report also said the European Commission’s proposal for a directive on access to justice in environmental matters should be withdrawn. It said that in 2003 the European Commission proposed a directive on access to justice in environmental matters.

"This was rightly blocked by European states", the report said. "It would mean huge uncertainty for the development of major infrastructure projects. And it would force businesses to comply with an overly rigid set of rules".

The report says the proposal should be formally withdrawn as EU member states are already party to the Aarhus Convention. "This guarantees access to justice in environmental matters. Any new directive would place unacceptable costs on businesses trying to expand".

Elsewhere, the report also calls for a proposed EU Soil Protection directive to be scrapped. The report said that, in the contaminated land sector, "the directive could cause widespread and unnecessary ‘blight’ of low-risk sites. The requirement for ‘soil status reports’, on the sale and purchase of land and property, will stifle growth in the housing and development sector".

Cut EU Red Tape: Report from the Business Taskforce can be read here.

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