Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
On 27 October 2016, I launched a consultation on the review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (Wales) Regulations 2007 (the EIA Regulations). The consultation sought the public’s view on a number of proposals which aim to streamline, strengthen and clarify the regulatory requirements.
The EIA Regulations operate a screening process which evaluates the potential impact of proposed agricultural projects on land which is classed as semi-natural and/or uncultivated. The Regulations are not put in place to prevent agricultural activity from taking place and are not a barrier to farming. This is supported by data collected since the introduction of the EIA regime in 2002. To date, the Welsh Government has considered 924 applications and given permission for the projects to proceed in 93% of cases.
At the same time, the EIA Regulations have the scope to protect farmland habitat sites and historically important land from damaging agricultural activity, as well as preserving Wales’ precious natural resources. The EIA regime gives a structured scientific approach to the assessment of improvement projects and their likely impact on particular sites and the wider environment outside of those areas already afforded statutory protection, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Designated sites occupy less than 20% of Wales. As such, the EIA Regulations play an important role in protecting the biodiversity and historical landscape of Wales.
I welcome the broad support for the EIA regime expressed by stakeholders through the consultation responses and during the pre-consultation workshops which were held in the spring of 2016. Respondents to the consultation provided valuable comments on the proposals and the wider application of the EIA Regulations which helped the Welsh Government to finalise the regulatory proposals and consider specific changes to the regime. These changes are not expected to affect how EIA is delivered in agriculture in Wales, rather they intend to provide more clarity and flexibility. The proposed changes are outlined in more detail in the consultation summary and response.
The revised Regulations are expected to come into force on 16 May 2017. The objectives of the EIA regulations contribute towards the delivery of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and a number of goals specified within the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, in particular creating a healthier and more resilient Wales.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who took time to respond to this important consultation exercise. All responses have been fully considered and addressed in the Welsh Government’s consultation analysis and response.