Irish EPA publishes finalised EIAR Guidelines
The Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) has recently published its finalised Guidelines on the information to be contained in Environmental Impact Assessment Reports (the Guidelines). The Guidelines were originally published in 2002, were revised in August 2017 but had remained in draft form since then. The publication of finalised Guidelines is therefore welcome.
Usefully, the Guidelines now contain up to date references to other Irish and EU guidance and publications to be considered when preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR). Other changes reflect the common sense approach which was already being taken since the draft Guidelines, for example, applying the Guidelines to EIARs submitted to all statutory bodies and not only those submitted to the EPA, and including an assessment of waste management in the 'Material Assets' chapter.
It is also notable that the Guidelines now take account of two important recent judgments: Fitzpatrick & Daly v An Bord Pleanála & Others  IESC 23 (the 'Apple Data Centre Case') and Sweetman v An Bord Pleanála & Ors  IEHC 390 (the 'Derryadd Windfarm Case').
- Fitzpatrick & Daly v An Bord Pleanála & Others  IESC 23 (the 'Apple Data Centre Case')
The EPA refer to this judgment in the context of describing a proposed project and future alterations to the project. The Guidelines note that the Apple Date Centre Case provides useful clarification on the requirements for assessment of cumulative effects and 'project splitting' as follows:
‘the obligation … to take account, when conducting the EIA of the proposed development which is the subject of the planning application, of potential environmental impacts of future phases of a masterplan, as far as is practically possible, does not amount to an obligation to conduct an EIA of the masterplan.… When and if an application for planning permission for further phases of the masterplan is made, a full EIA will be required which in turn will both assess cumulative impacts with all existing or approved developments, and look forward by taking account, as far as practically possible, of remaining future phases of the masterplan.’
- Sweetman v An Bord Pleanála & Ors  IEHC 390 (the' Derryadd Windfarm Case')
The Guidelines also refer to the Derryadd Windfarm Case; our previous summary of the judgment can be viewed here. In considering the judgment in the context of the level of detail required for a project description, the Guidelines note that the Court considered the provision of typical or maximum details insufficient. However, the Guidelines state that the "judgment was confined to planning consent considerations under the Planning & Development Regulations and EIA points did not come under consideration. The extent to which the same principles may apply to EIA is subject to emerging jurisprudence and interpretation".
The Guidelines replace all previous versions, and should be referred to and complied with in all EIARs currently being prepared. The EPA intends to update its Advice Notes on Current Practice (in the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements) dated 2003 to reflect the Guidelines.
For more information on the Guidelines or the preparation of EIARs generally, please contact Alison Fanagan, Consultant and Co Head of the Environmental & Planning Group, Chris Stynes, Associate or any member of ALG's Environmental & Planning Group.
Date published: 30 May 2022