Environmental Impact Assessment (Uncultivated Land and Semi-natural Areas) (England/Wales/Scotland) Regulations

Applies to EnglandApplies to WalesApplies to Scotland

Title: Environmental Impact Assessment (Uncultivated Land and Semi-natural Areas) (England/Wales/Scotland) Regulations

Category: England, Wales and Scotland Regulations

Date: 2001 -England, 2002 - Wales, 2002 - Scotland, 2007 - Wales

Reference: SI 2001/3966 - England [Full text], SI 2002/2127 (W.214) - Wales [Full text], SSI 2002/6 - Scotland [Full text], SI 2007/203 (W.17) - Wales [Full text]

General Description:

These Regulations implement, in relation to projects for the use of uncultivated land and semi-natural areas in England, Wales and Scotland individually for intensive agricultural purposes, Council Directive 85/337/EEC (as last amended by Council Directive 97/11/EEC) on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment and Council Directive 1992/43/EEC (as last amended by Council Directive 97/62/EC) on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora ("the Habitats Directive") insofar as it applies to such projects.

Uncultivated or semi-natural areas of land, including the following:

1. Unimproved grassland, heath and moorland, such as:

  • meadows and grazing pastures;
  • downland or open or enclosed upland grassland;
  • grassland with tree cover, such as orchards, parkland and wood pasture;
  • lowland and coastal heathland; and
  • moorland and upland rough grazing.

2. Scrubland:

  • EIA procedures will apply where scrub is cleared or managed so that it can be converted to arable or stock farming, including intensification of such an existing use.

3. Wetlands, such as:

  • marsh;
  • fen;
  • open water;
  • watercourses;
  • saltmarsh;
  • ditches; and
  • ponds.

Land is considered under this category if the water table normally lies at or near the surface for part of the year.

The definition of "project" identifies those activities which are subject to the requirements of the Regulations.  The following are examples of projects affected:

  • Cultivation.
  • Spreading soil or other material (including fertiliser or lime) in excess of existing routine application rates.
  • Drainage works, apart from routine maintenance.
  • Land reclamation from estuary or other wetlands.
  • Modifications to watercourses apart from routine maintenance.
  • Flood defences.
  • Infilling ditches, ponds, pits, pools, marshes or historic earthwork features.
  • Clearing vegetation or land (by physical removal, burning, application of herbicides, or deliberate overgrazing, trampling, or rooting by livestock) in preparation for cultivation.
  • Introducing livestock (including poultry) at intensive stocking rates, or increasing stocking rates to intensive levels.

Such projects cannot be undertaken unless a screening decision is first obtained. The screening decision determines whether the project is one which is likely to have significant effects on the environment (which will include a project likely to have a significant effect on a European site within the meaning of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) ("the Habitats Regulations"). A project which has been so determined is defined as a "relevant project" and cannot be carried out without consent first having been obtained from either the Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland).  An application for consent is required to include an environmental statement which will include information as is reasonably required to assess the environmental effects of the project.

The Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland) may not grant consent for a project which would involve activities prohibited under those provisions of the Habitats Regulations which implement Articles 12, 13, 15 and 16 (requirements for protection of species) of the Habitats Directive.

An applicant for a screening decision or for consent for a relevant project (or a person interested in a project subject to a revocation or modification under the review provisions) may appeal against an adverse decision to the Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland). An appellant is entitled to be heard by a person appointed by the Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland) for the purpose which hearing may take the form of a local inquiry if the Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland) so decide.

Persons aggrieved by decisions allowing projects to take place may apply to the High Court (England or Wales) or the Sherriff (Scotland) for a review of those decisions within six weeks of the decision being published (regulation 18).

Persons who carry on projects without first obtaining either a negative screening decision or consent for the project, or who act in breach of conditions imposed on a consent, commit an offence under the Regulations. It is also an offence under the Regulations to make false or misleading statements in order to obtain a particular decision.

If the Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland) wish to ensure that unauthorised activities are stopped with immediate effect, they can serve a stop notice on the person carrying out the activities or on any person with an interest in the land upon which the activities are taking place. Non-compliance with the stop notice is an offence (regulation 23).

The Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland) have powers to serve a notice requiring a person they believe to be responsible for committing an offence to reinstate the land to its former condition. An appeal against a reinstatement notice lies to the Magistrates' Court (England or Wales) or the Sherriff (Scotland). Failure to comply with the requirements of a reinstatement notice is an offence.  The regulations also contain powers of entry in connection with carrying out the functions of the Secretary of State (England), the National Assembly (Wales) or Scottish Ministers (Scotland) under the Regulations and includes the power to inspect and take copies of records. Powers are also provided to enter land for the purpose of carrying out works of reinstatement following non-compliance with a reinstatement notice.

2007 Wales Amendment: implements Directive 2003/35/EC providing for public participation in certain environmental decision making, insofar as it affects environmental impact assessments of uncultivated land and semi-natural areas. It also includes amendments to reflect a change in the legislation relating to disclosure of environmental information.

Click here for further Guidance on these Regulations

Pertinence to Agriculture: Conservation, Environmental Impact Assessment, Uncultivated Land

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