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

Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment contributes towards better and more transparent decision-making.

About Environmental Impact Assessment

The purpose of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is to ensure that planning decisions are made with full knowledge of a project's likely significant environmental effects.

Negative effects are then prevented, reduced or offset, while positive effects are enhanced.

EIA is widely used around the world and has been an established process in the UK and other EU countries for more than 20 years, since the introduction of the EU Directive in 1985.

Proposals for major projects which are likely to have significant environmental effects given their size and/or location, are subject to a rigorous assessment of their likely impacts before a decision on consent is made.

Where key sites are at risk, our casework officers may offer advice on the content and process of EIAs through consultation with developers and decision-makers. To see some of the cases we have been involved with, please visit our Casework pages.

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

Environmental Statements

Environmental Statements produced through EIA must provide information on the indirect and direct effects of a project on people, fauna and flora, soil, air, water, climate, landscape, material assets and cultural heritage.

The Environmental Statement must be taken into account in decisions on planning consent. The authorities may ask the developer to provide further information where they consider that the statement is inadequate, and can attach monitoring conditions to consents.

Public participation is an integral feature of effective EIA, enabling local people to understand what the development means for their community and to make their views known in light of the evidence. The resulting Environmental Statement gives decision-makers the information they need to resolve conflicting interests.

How we ensure good practice

We scrutinise Environmental Statements to ensure legislative requirements and good-practice guidelines have been followed.

We have produced good-practice guidance on the treatment of biodiversity impacts in Environmental Impact Assessments - download the Biodiversity Impact document at the left.

Short-haired bumblebee Bombus subterraneus, reintroduction, habitat includes Yellow iris Iris pseudacorus, Dungeness, Kent


Biodiversity and Environmental Impact Assessment: A good practice guide for road schemes. PDF, 4.7Mb.

Biodiversity Impact

Our engagement with policy and legislation

We lobby for effective EIA legislation that ensures biodiversity impacts are not overlooked in planning decisions.

For example, we responded to the 2006 Barker Review of Land Use Planning, which was critical of EIA processes because of their perceived costs and administrative burden - see the Environmental Impact Assessment and Sustainability Appraisal download on the right.

A review of the EIA Directive is currently going through the European Parliament and we are speaking up for nature in this political process in both the UK and in the European Union through BirdLife International.

We are supporting European Commission proposals which broadly-speaking are trying to make the EIA process more environmentally effective and responsive to the public. In this we are facing opposition to the proposed changes from the Governments of several Member States (including the UK). Economic growth is prioritised and regulations aimed at protecting the natural environment are viewed as too demanding. 

Protecting the interests of wildlife

Whilst many of the Commission’s proposed changes to the directive enjoy our support, we are pressing for the Directive review to go even further to protect the interests of wildlife.

We want to ensure: 

  • proper recognition is given to biodiversity.
  • the technical information which underpins the EIA decision-making process is of the highest quality.
  • projects in which environmentally valuable grasslands are threatened by intensive agricultural use are considered properly in the EIA legislation update.
Globe thistle taplow blue Echinops ritro


Submission for the proposed planning white paper. PDF, 80Kb.

Environmental Impact Assessment and Sustainability Appraisal

BirdLife broadly welcomes the proposed changes to the Directive, but proposes a range of further measures to strengthen its implementation. PDF, 438Kb.

Environmental Impact Assessment Directive Review