The statutory instruments, published this morning, are in relation to:
- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – which aims to ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account at the development consent stage of the planning process.
- Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) – which aims to ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account at the strategic plan-making stage of the planning process.
- Hazardous Substances Regulations – these ensure that the prevention of major accidents, and limiting the consequences of such accidents, are taken into account in land-use planning.
An explanatory memorandum on the EIA and SEA statutory instrument says it is intended "to make necessary changes to … [UK legislation] to ensure that the law functions correctly after the UK has left the European Union".
It says that "no substantive changes are being made by this instrument to the way the EIA or SEA regimes operate or the other legislation amended by this instrument. The changes remove unnecessary references, for example to the United Kingdom being a member state."
An explanatory memorandum on the statutory instrument on changes to the hazardous substances regime also says that there will be "no substantive changes" to how the hazardous substances planning regime will operate.
A government statement announcing the publication of the statutory instruments said any changes made "will not be retrospective, and so there will be no need to re-examine any decisions made before our EU exit purely as a result of these changes".
"The UK government is committed to maintaining the highest environmental standards after we leave the EU, and will continue to uphold international obligations through multilateral environmental agreements", it said.
According to the statement, the statutory instruments will now be scrutinised by a House of Commons committee. If they clear this process, they would then be formally laid before Parliament.
It went on to say that measures in the instruments that update references to other legislation come into force on 31 December 2018, while "all other provisions come into force at the point the UK leaves the European Union on 29 March 2019".
Lisa Hall, a planning associate at consultancy Bidwells, said: "The government’s announcement gives clarity to the industry on EIA and SEA after Brexit. It highlights their commitment to maintaining the highest environmental standards whilst ensuring a seamless transition to the new regulations.
"A real positive is there will be no need to re-examine any decisions before Brexit so it really is business as usual and full steam ahead."
In July, a briefing paper by the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Institute for European Environmental Policy suggested that project developers could put schemes on hold in the hope of a less taxing EIA regime following the UK's departure from the EU.
In February, the then foreign secretary Boris Johnson highlighted the potential to "declutter" the planning system as a key potential benefit of Brexit.