Environmental Outcomes Reports

How we assess the impacts of development, plans and policies, otherwise known as Environmental Assessment, is going to change with the introduction of Environmental Outcome Reports (EOR). What can we identify and learn from the current Sustainability Appraisal, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Environment Impact Assessment processes? And how do ensure that the new system of assessment and the preparation of EORs works better?

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The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill , plus the accompanying policy paper produced by Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC), launched a new form of environmental assessment known as Environmental Outcome Reports (EOR). The intention is that Environmental Outcome Reports will replace the existing system of Sustainability Appraisals (SA), Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

At the moment we don’t know the full details of how EORs will work and The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill only introduced broad powers allowing new regulations and guidance to come forward and signalling future consultations. What we do know is that the intention is to make EORs simpler, using more consistent data and focussed on measuring environmental effects against improving environmental outcomes.

There are known issues with the current SA/SEA/EIA system, such as

  • Too much paperwork generated and an overly cautious approach to assessing impacts
  • A lack of access to robust and consistent data
  • Assessments, particularly at the project level, can be inaccurate and misleading with the scientific uncertainty or implementation being often downplayed
  • A lack of monitoring of the forecasted impacts or mitigation, with many proposed mitigation measures either not being implemented as proposed or being ineffective.

Shifting to a new ‘outcomes based’ way of assessing impacts from development, plans, projects and policies is going to take time and PAS will be providing insights and support to councils along the journey.

To start that journey PAS, jointly with DLUHC, held a series of workshops to gather views from councils on the current challenges of undertaking Sustainability Appraisals, Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environment Impact Assessments and what can we learn from the current systems challenges and opportunities to inform the development of EOR.

The five workshops covered an overview of the new EOR system as set out in The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and a series of deeper dives into some of the more technical aspects of the current system such as screening and scoping stages as well as assessment, monitoring and remediation stages of EIA and SA/SEA. The views and information gathered at these workshops will be presented in a report, which will be made available shortly.

PAS wants local authority planners and members to get involved to help us decide how we best focus this support and what the priorities should be as the project evolves.  You can check out the Planning for a Better Environment section of the PAS KHub forum and sign up to the PAS newsletter. You can also join our EOR Officer Group which meets regularly, if you are interested in joining then email shelly.rouse@local.gov.uk