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, are holding a series of workshops to gather views from councils on the current challenges of undertaking Sustainability Appraisals, Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environment Impact Assessments.

The first workshop on the 29th June 2022 will be an overview of the new EOR system as set out in The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and will be an opportunity for discussion on what can we learn from the current systems challenges and opportunities to inform the development of EOR. You can read more about it and sign-up here.

We won’t be able to cover it all so the overview workshop will be followed up by 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.

Depending on the findings from the overview session and the level of interest in each, we may alter these sessions slightly.

Book your places on the workshops here.

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.