Impact Assessments and Site Sequential Analysis

Dependent upon the plan or project, planning applications may need to be accompanied by bespoke impact assessments. The requirement for such assessments range from national legislation (as in the case of Environmental Impact Assessments or Habitat Regulations Assessments) or from local planning application validation check lists (such as Health Impact Assessments).

Such assessments often require a multi-disciplinary approach to ensuring a positive resolution and RCA Regeneration is well-versed in leading on such issues. Outlined below is a summary of some of the key impact assessments that are required with certain planning applications and the role RCA Regeneration often plays in responding to such requirements. Environmental Impact Assessments:

The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 set out the process for EIAs within a planning context. Any development falling within schedule 1 of the Regulations is EIA development. Schedule 1 developments are often bespoke, major developments and include such projects as new power stations, major infrastructure projects or energy from waste incinerators (subject to certain size / operating thresholds).

What is more common in the planning industry is development contained within schedule 2. Put simply, schedule 2 development may constitute EIA development; dependent upon a number of factors. There are 13 types of development that are covered within schedule 2 of the Regulations but, most commonly, planning applications fall within section 10 parts ‘a’ or ‘b’.
 
Description of Development Applicable Thresholds
a. Industrial estate development projects
The area of the development exceeds 0.5 hectares.
b. Urban development projects,
including the construction of shopping centres and car parks, sports stadiums, leisure centres and multiplex cinemas;
(i) The development includes more than 1 hectare of urban development which is not dwellinghouse development; or
(ii) the development includes more than 150 dwellings; or
(iii) the overall area of the development exceeds 5 hectares.

RCA Regeneration has significant experience in dealing with EIA matters, and, from the outset would advise clients accordingly. In the first instance, RCA Regeneration would assess a client’s proposal against the Regulations. Where there is a possibility that it could be considered EIA development, RCA Regeneration would formally request a screening opinion from the relevant authority. Within such a request, we would provide our initial assessment in order to ensure a timely resolution to the process.

Where a positive screening result has been issued (and thus the proposal does formally constitute EIA development), RCA Regeneration would then look to work with the Local Planning Authority to scope out the areas of potential concern. The scoping process is a key aspect to EIA development as it ensures erroneous concerns are removed from the outset. Again, this ensures for a quicker resolution to the process.
 
Ultimately, the stages outlined above can remove the need for, or limit the requirement of, any subsequent Environmental Statement (ES). Where an ES is necessary, RCA Regeneration will then work with associated consultants to work up a document that meets the requirements of section 18 of the Regulations.
 
Health Impact Assessments:
Many Local Planning Authorities are now seeking HIA as part of their local validation requirements. As such, the ability to understand and deliver HIAs is an increasingly important tool for planners. The requirement for HIAs is dependent upon the scale and nature of the proposal; as well as which Local Authority will be determining the eventual application. Staff at RCA Regeneration have undertaken bespoke training which allows them to prepare and produce HIAs in support of development proposals.
 
As with EIAs, the process starts with a screening and scoping procedure; for a successful HIA, it is important to identify the key factors that determine health and, in particular, how they interrelate with the planning system. RCA Regeneration will work with the Local Planning Authority to ensure that any requirements for the HIA are streamlined; thus ensuring that our clients evidence base is focused upon the prevalent issues.  

While a detailed understanding of relevant guidance and literature is important in undertaking HIAs, the methodology involved also incorporates detailed community and stakeholder engagement.  This ensures that local knowledge and community concerns are factored into the appraisal and subsequent recommendations.
 
Dependent upon factors, but there are a variety of HIA techniques that can be incorporated. Where time is of the essence or the proposal is relatively minor, a rapid HIA could suffice. For strategic developments (such as those akin to schedule 1 or 2 developments within the EIA Regulations), a more detailed HIA might be more appropriate; incorporating relevant representatives from a variety of key stakeholders.
 
Retail/Leisure/Office Assessments:
National planning guidance (and indeed adopted Local Plans) promote town centre first policies for the above uses. Failure to adhere to this can often merit refusal of planning permission. As such, national guidance requires applicants to submit an impact assessment where a proposal is outside of the town centre. Assessing the impact often incorporates a number of different assessments, which are summarised below:
 
  • Sequential approach: This assessment identifies whether there are site(s) capable of accommodating either the entirety of the development or component parts thereof in sequentially preferable locations. Importantly, for retail proposals, there is significant case law in respect of the sequential approach that developers ought to be aware of.
  • Impact Assessments: Where the proposed use cannot be accommodated within a preferred town centre location, it will be necessary to assess the impacts upon the town centre should the development proceed. This is often a complex issue involving analysis of local economics and retailer behaviour. RCA Regeneration is well versed in dealing with the complexities of the issues identified above and, in the first instance, would recommend potential developers engage in this exercise from an early stage. Such information can fundamentally shape and improve the quality of a planning application and can help deliver more positive outcomes.
While the above list is not exhaustive, and indeed RCA Regeneration has experience in dealing with comparable pieces of work (such Sustainability Appraisals and Habitat Regulations Assessments), the information provided above is designed to provide a guide to developers and clients as to the level of works required.
 
Should you wish for further information on the above then please contact Sian Griffiths, Director, on siangriffiths@rcaregeneration.co.uk or Philip Deeley, Principal Planning Consultant, on philipdeeley@rcaregeneration.co.uk or 01905 887 686