Environmental Outcomes Reports consultation – Law Society response

We’ve responded to a government consultation on proposals for a new system environmental assessment.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities' consultation sought views on proposals for a new approach to environmental assessments (which is in Part 6 of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill).

Part 6 will secure the power to replace the EU-derived strategic environmental assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment with a new approach to assessments known as Environmental Outcome Reports.

The proposal aims to tackle problems including:

  • the navigability of the framework
  • engagement from communities
  • uncertainty developers face
  • clarity of outcomes and processes
  • information available for decision-makers

Our views

Our response in the consultation papers includes:

  • the need for non-regression to be secured via legal duties so as to not impact international trade and/or existing national and international legislative commitments
  • the risk of any secondary legislative or regulatory cracks with the implementation of the new approach
  • the removal of ‘significant environmental impacts’ from the assessment process does not adequately inform decision-makers of potential environmental risk when weighted against positive outcomes

Our recommendations

Overall, we recommend that:

  • the provisions need to ensure that the Secretary of State is under a duty to provide an environmental assessment system that is at least as effective as the current system in accordance with the principles of non-regression and rule of law
  • early and direct stakeholder consultation with the legal sector should be undertaken to close the legislative or regulatory cracks. It is recognised that there may be a rise in legal challenges when these new regulations are introduced
  • ‘significant environmental impact’ is included in the assessment process, and that climate change mitigation is also included in environmental outcome reporting. This should be an opportunity for the government to develop a scheme that takes a consistent and balanced nationwide approach to emissions reductions

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