The DCLG published the proposed changes after the commission announced that it is planning legal action against the UK for failing to comply with a court ruling on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive.
The case, brought over proposals for a cinema complex in London's Crystal Palace Park, found that EIAs are needed throughout the planning process rather than just at outline stage (Planning, 12 May 2006, p1).
The government promised to update the regulations but until now has not notified the commission of changes. A DCLG spokesman admitted: "It has taken longer than we hoped to look at the ruling and its impact."
The document would place a greater obligation on authorities to screen applications for the need for an EIA at reserved matters stage. But the DCLG said it expects that this will be rarely used and applications will fully comply with the directive prior to outline permission.
Addleshaw Goddard planning partner Douglas Evans said that if an application is properly assessed at outline stage it should not be needed for reserved matters.
The updated regulations are expected to be adopted early next year. The commission said that if this is done then it is unlikely that the case will go to court.
The consultation paper is available at PlanningResource.co.uk/doc.