Approach to the consenting process

Reviews of consents

New plans and projects

Reviews of consents

Whilst similar approaches to assessing 'likely significance' and 'no adverse effect' will be required both for new plans or projects and for reviews of consents, there are important differences in procedure between these two. The various stages in the 'review' process are outlined in the joint EA/EN/CCW guidance Guidance for the Review of Environment Agency Permissions: Determining Relevant Permissions and 'significant effect' (March 1999), and this should be referred to for guidance on the review process (see also EN Habitat Regulations Guidance Note 1 ('Appropriate Assessment') and CCW guidance on 'Significant Impact').

The reader should note that the legislative requirements for dealing with new proposals and review of consents may be different in Scotland. In determining whether a significant effect is likely during the review of consents, conservation officers can use their knowledge of the site=s current and past condition in advising whether the consent is likely to have an effect. A flow diagram showing the steps involved in the consultation process for reviews of consents is given in the joint EA/EN/CCW guidance note referred to above.

One of four approaches should be presented to the competent authority when the opinion of the statutory nature conservation body is sought on the likely role of the consented activity in affecting site condition during the review of consents:

A. The designated feature is in favourable condition and there is no evidence to suggest existing consents are currently having a significant effect.

B. The designated feature is in favourable condition but there is concern that a water quality problem caused by a consented discharge may be threatening that condition and/or causing a decline in it..

C. The designated feature is in unfavourable condition, but this can be attributed to a factor unrelated to water quality, e.g. vegetation management, and there is no evidence to suggest relevant consents are currently having a 'significant effect'.

D. The designated feature is in unfavourable condition and poor water quality may be or is likely to be responsible.

As the joint EA/EN/CCW guidance note on judging likely significant effect during reviews of consents points out, there may be circumstances where a discharge consent which is currently not having a significant effect may not be operating at its full capacity. Increasing the discharge up to that level may have an adverse effect and so, although the feature may currently be in good condition, the consent conditions may nevertheless need to be revised. The joint guidance note should be consulted for fuller details of the process currently agreed between the conservation agencies and the EA.

The present guidance document should be used to help to determine whether relevant consents are likely to have a significant effect. The information provided here should help in deciding whether a mechanism exists whereby the conservation feature may be affected by the authorised activity; whether that mechanism is likely to be operating under the particular circumstances being considered; and whether the scale of effect is likely to be significant. The guidance should help in deciding whether further information is needed before a judgement on significant effect can be reached. It should also help at the later stage in the process when judging 'no adverse effect on integrity'. In that case, the guidance should be used to help determine what information is needed during the assessment and what further studies may be needed to help provide that information. If you are in doubt, seek advice from your national specialists as well as from EA conservation staff and specialists.

New plans and projects

When dealing with an authorisation for new plans and projects the assessment of site condition ('A' to 'D' above) will play a less significant role, and judgements are likely to depend more upon modelling future impacts, although a decision on the capacity of the site to respond to, e.g. further pollution loadings, will depend upon an understanding of its response to current loadings. In dealing with such situations, this guidance should help in understanding the output from model predictions and in proposing suitable monitoring requirements. Users of this manual should also refer to forthcoming joint EA/EN/CCW guidance on applying the Habitats Regulations to new Agency authorisations and activities (EAS/3100/4/2).

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