Environmental Impact

Central to sustainable development is the assessment of urban projects in terms of their environmental impact. A useful tool used to determine negative environmental impacts is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The European Community Directive 337/85 on environment impact assessment specifies the types of project for which an EIA is mandatory; these include large-scale projects such as oil refineries, power stations and motorways. This directive has been absorbed into Planning Law in the UK. The further European Community Directive 97/11/EC has led to the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999. The regulations broaden the range of development projects that need an EIA to include projects that fall within the scope of urban design. In addition to the large-scale projects, an EIA is always required if the project is included in Schedule Two of the Regulations; or if threshold criteria are met; or the project is sited in a 'sensitive area'; and is likely to produce 'significant environmental effects'. Moreover, an important innovation introduced in this Regulation is the introduction of statutory size thresholds, which have been reduced to half an acre. Environmental considerations have now become important for projects such as shopping centres, car parks, multiplex cinemas, leisure-centres and sports stadia. Figure 1.5 shows the checklist for assessing impacts of urban developments. The EIA procedure is potentially of great significance for achieving a sustainable urban environment of quality (Moughtin et al., 2003a).

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