View of a variety of different branded containers stacked up at the Belfast harbour container port

Environmental assessment

The RSPB is helping to shape environmental assessments for planning to ensure they include stronger protection for wildlife and nature.

What is an Environmental Assessment?

In memoriam: the Memorial Garden at The Lodge. Bedfordshire, England

Environmental Assessments are a way of determining the potential impact of any new development on the natural world. Using a variety of techniques and processes, the assessment recommends ways to avoid, mitigate or minimise any negative impacts a development may have, to help planners make informed decisions.

What is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

Close up of a traffic light, showing an adult mistle thrush nesting and feeding chicks in front of the red light

An EIA is used to create an Environmental Statement which is needed for some large developments or one located near sensitive places. The statement predicts possible environmental damage and sets out how it could be reduced. This evidence must be considered by the planning authority when it decides whether the proposed development can go ahead. 


Download Biodiversity and Environmental Impact Assessment: A good practice guide for road schemes (4.7Mb) for more information.

What is a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SAE)?

A large flock of cranes flies in front of a windmill and blue skies

An SEA is similar to an EIA but applies to major plans and programmes, rather than individual development projects. It is undertaken at a high level to identify how to protect the environment during the early stages of planning. Crucially it includes public consultation as part of the process.

SEAs were introduced in 2004 by the European Directive and they apply to a range of programmes prepared by statutory bodies, local authorities and others.

Environmental Assessment reform

Bell heather Erica cinerea, heathland restoration, Farnham Heath RSPB reserve, Surrey, England

The Westminster Government wants to reform the current assessment processes to make them quicker and easier for developers to use, while retaining protection for nature. The RSPB is part of these discussions and has suggested new ideas and proposals to ensure any new legislation includes stronger protection for wildlife and nature. It is likely the reforms will be part of new Levelling-Up Bill, which is expected to take priority in the coming months.