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  Handing on
our Heritage

Environmental Impact Assessment

At a more detailed level than SEA, EIA tends to be applied on an individual project basis and can be informed by the findings of SEA. Numerous EIA publications and Good Practice Guides have been produced and indicate how to apply the method in a general way, and in accordance with legal requirements, including some specific guidance on the application to transport schemes.

European Union Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (85/337/EEC) (CEC 1985) as amended by Directive 97/11/EEC (CEC1997) requires member states to assess the significant environmental effects of certain public and private projects. This is compulsory for the types of transport project listed under Annex I and discretionary for projects listed under Annex II including inland waterways, railways and roads not covered by Annex I (Box 3.3).

The requirement for an environmental assessment for Annex II projects either can be determined on a case by case basis, or by adopting a threshold criteria, or by a combination of the two, Special attention is needed in environmentally sensitive locations including those covered by the Birds Directive (79/409/ECC), and Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).


The amended EC Directive on EIA (97/11/EEC) demands consideration of the main alternatives studied and the reasons for the final choice – for example, to avoid a protected area. The developer is required to provide certain specified appropriate information to the case to enable a decision to be made by the authorities. The information supplied should consider significant direct and indirect effects including to flora, fauna and landscape and the interrelationship of these with other aspects. Details of measures to reduce significant adverse effects should be included within the assessment. Cumulative effects must be assessed also (Box 3.4). Cumulative effects can result in significant changes in the landscape and to biological diversity. For example, an existing railway and a proposed road crossing the same valley together may exacerbate the visual effects and severance problems.


Public consultation forms an important part of the process of environmental impact assessment. The application for consent and the information received should be made available for comment by the “public concerned”.


The EIA Directive (85/337/EEC) has been variously implemented by EU member States (IUCN 1990) with particular laws relating to transport schemes. Under the acquis communautaire States are required to take on a variety of legislation relating to transport and the environment. This includes adopting the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. The Vienna Declaration requires the implementation of EIA in planning and building transport infrastructure and is in line with the Espoo Convention 1991. Thus, throughout the European region the application of EIA is strongly recommended even in cases where there is no legal requirement.


Care is needed to ensure that compliance with the legal/ funding requirements of an EIA do not overlook the need to continue the EIA process in subsequent post planning stages of scheme design and implementation. This is very important if features relating to the landscape and biological diversity are to be maintained.


Post construction monitoring provides a check on whether proposals put forward in the EIA have been implemented and are functioning. Feedback can enable fine adjustments to be made. Secondary benefits of monitoring include improvements in prediction techniques. A shortcoming is that the EIA Directive makes no provision for the “posteriori examination” included in Article 7 of the Espoo Convention. Generally monitoring is omitted unless supported by a legal requirement/agreement as part of the consent (as in Spain, France and the Netherlands (Fauconnier 2000 2e).


In addition to EIA, other relevant European Directives need to be considered including those on local air quality, noise and water pollution (CEC 2000).

Box 3.3 Type of transport schemes requiring EIA under 97/11/EEC


Annex 1

Construction of lines of long-distance railway traffic.

Construction of motorways and express roads

Construction of a new road of four or more lanes, or realignment and/or widening of an existing road of two lanes or less so as to provide four or more lanes, where such new road, or realigned and/or widened section of road would be 10 km or more in a continuous length

Inland waterways and ports for inland waterway traffic which permit the passage of vessels of over 1,350 tonnes.


Annex II

10. Infrastructure projects:

c) Construction of railways and intermodal trans shipment facilities, and of intermodal terminals (included projects not in Annex I);

(e) Construction of roads, harbours and port installations, including fishing harbours (projects not included in Annex I);

(f) Inland-waterway construction not included in Annex I, canalisation and flood-relief works;

(h) Tramways, elevated and underground railways, suspended lines or similar lines of a particular type, used exclusively or mainly for passenger transport;



Box 3.4 Types of environmental impact


Indirect Impacts: Impacts on the environment, which are not a direct result of the project, often produced away from or as a result of a complex pathway. Sometimes referred to as second or third level impacts, or secondary impacts.


Cumulative Impacts: Impacts that result from incremental changes caused by other past, present or reasonably foreseeable actions together with the project.


Impact Interactions: The reactions between impacts whether between the impacts of just one project or between the impacts of other projects in the areas".


(From European Commission DGXI (1999) Guidelines for the assessment of indirect and cumulative impacts as well as impact interactions.)




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