Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs)

What is an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)?

An Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) is a formalised “process of identifying, quantifying and evaluating the potential effects of development-related or other proposed actions on habitats, species and ecosystems” (CIEEM, 2016, adapted from Treweek, 1999).

An EcIA can form part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as required under the amended Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 2014/52/EU or can be a stand-alone ecological assessment to ensure compliance with other planning policy and legislation where an EIA is not required.

When do I need an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)?

Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs) are required as part of an EIA for projects that are likely to have significant environmental effects. EIA is a mandatory requirement for projects listed in Annex I of the Directive and is also necessary where projects meet the criteria in Annex II of the Directive and are likely to have significant environmental effects (defined in Annex III of the Directive).

An EcIA may also form part of a stand-alone ecological assessment required to meet planning policy and legislative requirements where an EIA is not required. 

An EcIA may also inform a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) where projects may have the potential to affect designated sites protected by the EU Habitats Directive.

The process: How long will it take?

The process is well established and systematic to ensure it is repeatable and comparable. The process is clearly defined with Guidelines for the UK and Ireland produced by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM, 2016).

Like all ecological assessments, the process is iterative, i.e. each stage informs the next, with ongoing and updated scoping throughout the process. The main stages are as follows:

  1. Project Design
  2. Screening (EIA only)
  3. Scoping EcIA
  4. Impact Assessment
  5. Project design evolution and mitigation
  6. Identification of significant residual impacts
  7. Reporting
  8. Follow-up monitoring

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