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Environmental assessment

What is sustainable development?

Environmental protection and enhancement have become extremely important in today's society. The issue of climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions has led to a greater awareness of the importance of our natural environment and how we treat it. This is not a new issue although it continues to gain public awareness. One way to help reduce the impact of our actions on the natural environment is to employ the principles of sustainable development.

'Sustainable development' is a phrase which has been used to describe the most appropriate way by which the present generation can address environmental concerns. The term has a number of definitions. One of the most widely used ones is: 'development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

Sustainable development is not something which can be achieved quickly. It is something which will take many years to become a reality and can only be achieved if there is a strong and real commitment by governments throughout the world.

Planning and sustainable development

Planning has a key role to play in moving towards more sustainable forms of development in terms of the provisions of Section 2 of the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 and Scottish Government Guidance on Planning and Sustainable Development. It can contribute by promoting more energy efficient homes, thus reducing CO2 emissions, directing development to the most appropriate locations, facilitating renewable energy developments, promoting green travel (reducing car borne journeys), encouraging sustainable design and construction, safeguarding biodiversity, protecting finite built and natural heritage resources, encouraging recycling/waste reduction and ensuring that potentially environmentally harmful developments are properly mitigated.

A number of processes have been introduced into Scottish legislation, designed to prevent and/or reduce adverse impacts upon our environment. These processes have clear links to planning and the Council is keen to ensure that these processes are carried out in the correct manner and achieve real outcomes. Some of these processes are described below.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

SEA is the process by which certain plans, programmes and strategies of local authorities and public bodies are assessed in order to determine their likely impact upon the environment. The purpose of the assessment is to protect the environment by ensuring that environmental considerations are taken into account at the outset of the plan-making process.

SEA was introduced into domestic legislation through The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. This Act implements Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament.

The SEA process follows a number of key stages:

  • Screening
  • Scoping
  • Environmental Report
  • Adoption
  • Monitoring

SEA pre-screening and screening reports:

Name of PPS Date of issue Will it give rise to likely significant effects (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects)?
Supplementary Guidance - Dark Sky Lighting 30/06/2016 No
Supplementary Guidance - Maintaining An Effective Housing Land Supply 29/06/2016 No
Dundonald Conservation Area Character 19/09/2013 No
Kirkoswald Conservation Area Character 19/09/2013 No
Rural Housing Supplementary Guidance 26/10/12 No
Residential Extensions and Alterations Supplementary Guidance 26/10/12 No
Education Contributions Supplementary Guidance 26/10/12 No
SPG: Open Space and Designing New Residential Streets 03/12/07 Yes
SPG: Advertisements and Signage 24/07/07 No
SPG: New Housing Developments and Affordable Housing – A Guideline for Developers 17/11/08 No

SEA Scoping Reports

Name of PPS Date of issue
SPG: Open Space and Designing New Residential Streets 11/04/08
Historic Environment Supplementary Guidance 09/11/12
South Ayrshire Main Issues Report 11/08/09
South Ayrshire Local Development Plan

Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to predict the environmental impacts of a project at an early stage. Assessing the impacts of a project prior to its development presents an opportunity to fully explore the extent of impacts upon the environment, consider where alternative approaches may be more suitable and to consider where appropriate mitigation measures will be required.

The procedure requires the applicant to compile an Environmental Statement (ES) which describes the likely significant effects on the environment and the proposed mitigation measures which will be used to reduce such impacts. The ES will be circulated to a list of statutory consultees and a view regarding the acceptability of that Statement and its conclusions must be reached by the Council prior to the determination of the related planning application.

Environmental statements are generally very large documents and can only be viewed by visiting the Council’s offices at Burns House, Burns Statue Square, Ayr. Furthermore, environmental statements are only made available during the consultation period.

EIA screening template for proposed single turbine or small scale wind energy developments

The Scottish Government has published a screening template for single turbine or small-scale wind energy developments. This should be filled out by the applicant in all relevant instances and submitted to the Council as part of the request for an EIA screening opinion.

Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA)

Under the terms of The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 (the Habitats Regulations), all competent authorities (i.e. the plan-making body) are required to assess the impacts of certain plans or projects upon Natura 2000 sites. This process is known as Habitats Regulations Appraisal.

HRA includes the process of screening the plan or project for likely significant effects as well as the appropriate assessment stage. Appropriate assessment is required when a plan or project affecting a Natura site:

  • is not connected with or necessary to the nature conservation management of the site; and
  • is likely to have a significant effect on the site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects).

Click on the following links for the relevant HRA:

Sustainable Development Team

Specific queries relating to sustainability/sustainable development should be addressed to the Sustainable Development Section of the Council which deals with the full range of sustainable development matters."

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Last updated: 28 July 2016

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