Closed consultation

Environmental Outcomes Report: a new approach to environmental assessment

Published 17 March 2023

Applies to England

Scope of the consultation

Topic of this consultation: This consultation seeks views on a proposed new system of environmental assessment (‘Environmental Outcomes Reports’) to replace the current EU-derived environmental assessment processes of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment.  

Scope of this consultation: The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is seeking powers to implement a new domestic framework for environmental assessment. We are consulting on the use of powers in the Bill and seeking views from stakeholders across environmental assessment regimes. The consultation seeks views on how this new framework could work as a replacement to the existing environmental assessment regimes that have been transposed into domestic law from the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. 

Geographical scope: The consultation mirrors the position in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and is limited to those areas of environmental assessment that fall within the competence of the UK government or where the UK government has historically legislated in areas of devolved competence.  

Basic Information

Body/bodies responsible for the consultation: The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.  

Duration: This consultation will last for 12 weeks from 17 March to 9 June 2023. 

Enquiries: For any enquiries about the consultation please contact:

How to respond:

Please respond via Citizen Space which is the department’s online consultation portal and our preferred route for receiving consultation responses. We strongly encourage that responses are made via Citizen Space, particularly from organisations with access to online facilities such as local authorities, representative bodies and businesses. Consultations receive a high-level of interest across many sectors. Using the online survey greatly assists our analysis of the responses, enabling more efficient and effective consideration of the issues raised.

Please respond by completing the Citizen Space online survey.

If you are unable to access the link above you may email your response to:

If you are responding in writing, please make it clear which questions you are responding to. Written responses should be sent to:

Environmental Assessment Reform Team
Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities
3rd Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street

When you reply, it would be very useful if you confirm whether you are replying as an individual or submitting an official response on behalf of an organisation and include:

  • your name,
  • the name of organisation (if applicable),
  • type of organisation you are representing, and
  • an email address

Please also confirm whether you agree to be contacted in relation to any of the answers you have provided.

Please make it clear which question or paragraph number each comment relates to, and also ensure that the text of your response is in a format that allows copying of individual sentences or paragraphs, to help us when considering your view on particular issues.

Thank you for taking time to submit responses to this consultation. Your views will help improve and shape our policies.


Through the landmark Environment Act 2021 we set a clear commitment to clean up the country’s air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity and halt the decline in species by 2030. Leaving the European Union gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to create an improved framework of environmental assessment which properly reflects our country’s needs and the unique characteristics of our environment.

Through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, we are seeking to secure the necessary powers to bring forward a new domestic framework for all the environmental assessment regimes which originate from the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA) and Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes (Strategic Environmental Assessment or SEA) Directive. These reforms will ensure the value and rigour of environmental assessment is retained whilst allowing us to push for better environmental outcomes. This consultation begins an important conversation about how to make best use of those powers.

Our vision is for assessment to be more effective as a tool for managing the effects of development on the natural environment, supporting better, faster and greener delivery of the infrastructure and development we need. We will simplify and streamline the assessment process to make it more effective as a tool to support the delivery of our environmental commitments.

Over the past 50 years, much of the UK’s wildlife-rich habitat has been lost or degraded and many of our once common species are in long-term decline. Our rich cultural heritage and treasured landscape are also under constant threat. This is despite efforts to address environmental issues using tools such as environmental assessment.

Re-focusing assessment will allow communities to better engage and fully understand the environmental effect of development and be confident that problems will be addressed if they arise. By setting clear outcomes and clarifying process, developers will be able to embed environmental considerations from the outset and be supported to deliver the best possible environmental outcomes. A reformed system will ensure decision-makers are equipped with the information they need to make informed choices that support sustainable

This is your chance to influence the change. We want to hear from you on what you think could work for your regime. We also want your suggestions on how we can work together to develop a system of environmental assessment that delivers what the nation, and the environment, needs.

1. Introduction

1.1 Formal environmental assessment has been required in the UK since the 1980s but there remain questions as to how effective these processes have been in managing environmental issues. The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill intends to secure powers to replace the current processes set out in EIA and SEA Directives with a new system of Environmental Outcomes Reports (EORs).

1.2 In creating a new system of environmental assessment, it is essential that standards are kept high. The government is committed to improving what already exists and ensuring it can deliver on the challenges we face in the 21st century. Clause 142 (Safeguards: non-regression, international obligations and public engagement) of the Bill enshrines the commitment to non-regression in law and ensures that the new system provides as much overall environmental protection as the current system.

1.3 This consultation sets out our initial thinking on how the powers in the Bill could be used to deliver a more effective system. It also shows how EORs will benefit from other measures in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill; including the move from a document-based system towards interactive information, use of common data standards, and the increased data accessibility requirements which form part of our digital reforms.

1.4 Over the coming months, further consultation will be carried out as we work with users, expert stakeholders and the public to design and develop the detail of the new system which will be delivered through secondary legislation. The government will continue to work with the devolved administrations to ensure we have a system that works across sectors and borders, ensuring we have a workable solution for faster and more effective delivery of the development the country needs.

1.5 The government intends to place environmental issues at the heart of the reformed system by introducing an outcomes-based approach. This will ensure that plans and developments support our goals set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan. These reforms will deliver a streamlined system which works for everyone and delivers better environmental outcomes:

  • For communities – A more navigable system will give people a clear understanding of how development will affect the environment without having to search through mountains of material for the relevant information. The system will take a stronger approach to mitigation to give communities confidence that action will be taken to minimise the environmental effect of development.
  • For developers – An outcomes-based approach will provide the certainty developers need to embed environmental considerations into the earliest stages of the project. This certainty will allow developers to focus on delivering for the environment rather than guarding against the risk of legal challenge which will reduce costs and delays from unnecessary work.
  • For decision-makers – Clearer information will allow decision-makers to make more robust decisions, with greater confidence. Supported by improved data, the new approach will allow decision-makers to better understand how local decisions play into national priorities. Shorter, simpler assessment reports, and a more robust approach to monitoring and mitigation, will increase transparency and ensure greater confidence in decisions.
  • For environmental interests – The new system will establish a golden thread from national commitments through to the individual developments. Assessments will focus on the critical environmental issues and will be underpinned by better access to robust data. A stronger focus on monitoring will ensure mitigation measures are delivering so remedial action can be taken if required.
  • For policy makers, planning and environmental professionals – A more navigable framework will support the creation of a robust evidence base to inform future policies and assessments. Focused reports will pinpoint the most important environmental considerations and ways of managing them. Better access to the most important information will ensure policy makers continuously learn and develop their approach over time.

A cross-government approach

1.6 In transposing the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (2011/92/EU as amended by 2014/52/EU) and the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes (Strategic Environmental Assessment) Directive (2001/42/EC), a range of environmental assessment regimes were created. These are listed in Table 1 below and cover different types of consenting.

1.7 To maximise efficiencies and reduce duplication, the government will identify opportunities to take a single approach across regimes wherever possible. For all regimes EORs will cover, as a minimum – biodiversity and environmental quality (including visual impacts). While focusing on environmental outcomes, reforms will allow us to consider how best to address the environmental effects of development on communities, covering issues such as the health of local people. However, it will be up to the individual departments (listed in Table 1 below) to bring forward regulations and guidance to implement EORs for their respective regimes.

1.8 Additionally, there is devolved legislation where the devolved administrations have transposed the EU Directives in accordance with their devolution settlements.


Table 1: Existing environmental assessment regimes

Title Department
The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes 2004 DLUHC  
The Town and Country Planning (TCPA) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 DLUHC  
The Infrastructure Planning (NSIP) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 DLUHC  
The Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2006 (and as amended, 2017) Defra  
The Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 (and as amended 2017)  Defra  
The Environmental Impact Assessment (Land Drainage Improvement Works) Regulations 1999 (and as amended 2017) Defra  
The Water Resources (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003 Defra  
Harbours Act 1964, Schedule 3 (I)   DFT  
The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007/1518   Defra  
Highways Act 1980, Part VA   DFT  
The Transport and Works Act 1992, sections 13A, 13B, 13C and 13D DFT  
The Transport and Works (Applications and Objections Procedure) (England and Wales) Rules 2006 DFT  
The Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2017 DESNZ  
The Public Gas Transporter Pipe-Lines Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1999   DESNZ  
The Pipe-line Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2000  DESNZ  
The Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipelines (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 DESNZ  
The Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Unloading and Storage (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2020   DESNZ  
The Nuclear Reactors (Environmental Impact Assessment for Decommissioning) Regulations 1999 DESNZ  

1.9 Discussions are ongoing with the devolved administrations to consider whether the powers in the Bill could be expanded to provide devolved ministers with the necessary powers to bring forward reforms to those regimes for which they have responsibility.

Habitats Regulations

1.10 The Bill does not include powers to reform assessment under the Habitats Regulations. The powers in Clause 149 (Interaction with existing environmental assessment legislation and the Habitats Regulations) mirror the position under the current system to allow for co-ordination between the processes and joint working, with a view to avoiding duplication.

2. Background to environmental assessment

2.1 Environmental assessment aims to ensure the environmental effects of plans, programmes and projects are factored into decision making. The process for assessing the environmental impacts of development plans and projects likely to have significant effects on the environment has been derived from two EU Directives and their transposing statutory instruments:

  • The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Directive (also known as Strategic Environmental Assessment or ‘SEA’): Requires the assessment of plans and programmes that set a framework for development likely to have a significant environmental impact
  • The Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA): Requires the assessment of development projects where there is likely to be significant environmental effects (for example, large housing developments, quarries, agriculture etc.)

2.2 Environmental assessment under the EU Directives typically consists of the following stages:

  • Screening: Considering whether assessment is required
  • Scoping: Determining what the assessment should cover, and carrying out of associated technical consultations
  • Assessment: Identifying the environmental effects and reasonable alternatives to the plan, policy, programme, or project; identifying options to prevent or reduce environmental harm
  • Reporting: Outlining the findings of the assessment, including details of mitigation to prevent or reduce residual adverse effects, and the carrying out of associated consultations
  • Monitoring: Checking that the assessment was correct, mitigation is working as proposed, and taking appropriate remedial actions if required for the purpose of addressing any unforeseen adverse effects.

3. Addressing the issues

3.1 The government has engaged with users of the environmental assessment regimes under the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) and Planning Act 2008 (for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects – also known as NSIPs, Development Consent Orders or ‘infrastructure planning’) as part of the preparation for reform. This engagement has provided the quotes below from users (e.g. developers, consenting authorities and environmental specialists) with experience of working with the current system under these two regimes:

If you speak to virtually anyone in plan-making, they question the value of Sustainability Appraisal… It literally has become a box-ticking exercise. It’s a nightmare. It’s impenetrable…the reporting is unintelligible to most people.

SEA/SA don’t actually slow down plan making – we simply outsource it to consultants, and they do it all. The only thing is consultants may not know about the local area and site specifics, so we end up having to do copious track changes…

EIA has mushroomed into the go-to area for legal challenge.

So you will need a noise assessment or a transport assessment, but they can be separate, and not needed in the EIA. But the planners’ scope everything in.

One benefit to an EIA is that it forces you by default to ‘up your game’ and put together a robust application…. it doesn’t actually add that much value as a lot of the information would be done anyway…

If they’re de-watering to extract minerals, it can actually have an impact quite far away - e.g. the wet heathland miles away could dry up. But it’s hard to predict…

It’s being aware of what data there is and where it is - that’s a key challenge.

Our enforcement team don’t monitor projects, it’s usually down to complaints from the public…[footnote 1]

3.2 Experiences across the assessment regimes listed in Table 1 varies, in accordance with the various legislative and policy frameworks within which each sits, and effectiveness of assessment practice within that regime. There can be major variations in implementation, for example with respect to the charging of fees (whether by project, or on a cost recovery, hourly basis) and the nature of the consenting authority. Enforcement provisions across the regimes range from non-existent, to the revocation of the agreement, through to civil and criminal sanctions.

3.3 By way of example, projects that are regulated through the EIA (Agriculture) Regulations are ‘standalone’ with no specific strategic plan, programme or assessment sitting above at a higher level. There are also variations in practice with regard to the multiple stages of the process, for example the large majority of the work for an EIA in the Agriculture regime is carried out at the screening stage.

3.4 The value of environmental assessment is recognised across regimes. As an example, government discussions with stakeholders working within the Marine Works regime identified that the EIA regulations have enabled the marine archaeological resource to be considered alongside other environmental topics as part of the development process. This has ensured that the marine historic environment has been protected and is considered to be a major benefit of marine EIA.

3.5 From our engagement to date, we want to focus reform on addressing a number of central issues:

  • inefficiency
  • duplication
  • risk aversion
  • loss of focus
  • issues with data


3.6 Reforming environmental assessment will ensure it is as efficient and effective as possible. These reforms will make sure assessment activity is carried out early within the development of a plan or project, against clearly defined and relevant priorities, at the time best able to deliver a positive environmental outcome, through the measures outlined below.


3.7 This government is mindful that environmental assessment is not an end in itself − and is one exercise within wider policy frameworks and consenting regimes aimed at managing the effects of development. For the Town and Country Planning regimes, the courts recently reminded us of its subsidiary nature as “…a means of informing and strengthening a larger process, which is the process of determining an application for planning permission for “development”… ”.

3.8 The government is clear that EORs must not duplicate assessment activity carried out elsewhere in the development of the plans or projects within regimes subject to EOR. This means that where matters are considered at other stages of the overarching process, these should not be assessed again as part of the EOR unless further, more granular, detail is required as appropriate for the scale. For some regimes, SEA has been expanded to include social and economic considerations and rebranded as ‘Sustainability Appraisal’ or ‘Integrated Impact Assessments’. This has resulted in duplication and overlap with the policy and legislative framework within which these assessments sit. For Town and Country Planning, Sustainability Appraisal results in conclusions such as the following example:

The Proposed Local Plan is therefore likely to have a significant, positive, cumulative effect on Sustainability Appraisal Objective: Housing

3.9 The purpose of Town and Country Planning is to deliver sustainable development, a cornerstone of which is improving the health and wellbeing of communities. This is achieved through the local plan by allocating land for housing development and other uses. As a housing needs assessment is a key part of the evidence underpinning the local plan − a further assessment of the effects of the plan on a housing sustainability appraisal objective is unnecessary and an inefficient use of local authority resources. It also undermines the original purpose, and effectiveness, of assessment and reinforces the perception of assessment as a bureaucratic box-ticking exercise.

Risk aversion

3.10 The government has repeatedly heard from users that fear of legal challenge is driving a risk averse approach to assessment. Fear of legal challenge has resulted in assessments being repetitive, voluminous and cumbersome. As far back as 2004, Lord Justice Sullivan foresaw the challenge ahead and issued a warning to practitioners of the need to take a more focused approach to EIA.

It would be no advantage to anyone concerned […] if Environmental Statements were drafted on a purely “defensive basis” mentioning every possible scrap of information […] Such documents would be a hindrance, not an aid, to sound decision-making by the local planning authority since they would obscure the principal issues with a welter of detail’[footnote 2].

3.11 This risk averse approach increases the resources needed to generate and sustain the assessment; lengthens timeframes; and generates inaccessible and unwieldy documentation. It places significant demands on the resources of local authorities and statutory consultees for little environmental benefit.

3.12 These reforms will clarify and simplify the assessment process and address the issue of risk aversion by being clear what assessment should cover, and how assessment should be carried out. Guidance will show how underlying technical information should be signposted in summary reports, so the effects of development on the environment can be clearly identified by all.

Loss of focus

3.13 The original purpose of environmental assessment was to build in an additional level of scrutiny of the effects of development activity on the environment – an activity inherently skewed towards delivering social and economic outcomes.

3.14 Within the planning regimes, assessments that contain social and economic considerations frequently conclude that the effect of the development overall is positive, because of provision of jobs, housing or other infrastructure. The balancing of these considerations is the role and function of the planning or consenting system, within which the assessment sits. This is not the role of the environmental assessment, which is to provide information on the effects of development on the environment to the decision-maker. However, while focusing on environmental outcomes, this new system will still allow us to reflect how the environmental effects of development impact on local people.

3.15 Users have told us there is confusion in users and ‘competent experts’, over the differences between assessment of compliance with policy and environmental assessment. For the planning regimes, we will clarify through guidance how arguments made in support of a development project, including how it complies with policy, should be made once only, within the Planning Statement. This Statement documents the design evolution; summarises all the issues − including the effects identified through the environmental assessment; considers the ‘planning balance’; and makes a conclusion on the overall acceptability of the Project.

3.16 Refocussing assessment back on critical environmental issues, will deliver streamlined processes, and increase the efficiency of development related policy-making and consenting processes.

Issues with data

3.17 This issue was common to all regimes. All regimes felt that a lack of relevant, accessible, robust and quality assured data hindered effectiveness and caused delays. Feedback from other government departments on the operation of their regimes identified that a lot of environmental data existed; but it was not necessarily of the type or standard required to resolve and manage the impacts of development on the environment. Interactions and inter-dependencies between habitats and species were a major area of concern, where better data was necessary. In many regimes obtaining robust baseline data has been challenging.

3.18 The government has found that for some regimes, a large amount of data was available but knowing where and how to access it was an issue. General engagement carried out as part of these reforms has highlighted that access to data – both legally and in terms of knowing where to find it − is a significant issue. Data is currently held in a variety of places – ranging from the various levels of government to consultees and third parties.

3.19 The quality of data, and how it was verified or quality assured, was also a major concern highlighted by users, and also more generally through engagement across the regimes. Data is usually collected for a specific purpose, and this may mean that it is unsuitable for reuse in another context.

4. An outcomes-based approach


Clause 138 (Power to specify environmental outcomes) gives powers for the Secretary of State to set environmental outcomes and includes a requirement that the Secretary of State must have regard to the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan when setting outcomes. The safeguards under Clause 142 (Safeguards: non-regression, international obligations and public engagement) ensure the overall level of environmental protection provided by existing environmental law will not be reduced.

This chapter introduces how an outcomes-based approach could work in practice and proposes a set of outcomes that could be used across regimes. The setting of outcomes will build on the provisions of the Environment Act 2021 and create a direct link between the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan and planning decisions.

We would like views on:

Q.1. Do you support the principles that will guide the development of outcomes? [Yes / No].

Q.2. Do you support the principles that indicators will have to meet? [Yes / No].

Q.3. Are there any other criteria we should consider?

Q.4. Would you welcome proportionate reporting against all outcomes as the default position? [Yes/ No].

Q.5. Would proportionate reporting be effective in reducing bureaucratic process, or could this simply result in more documentation?

Q.6. Given the issues set out above, and our desire to consider issues where they are most effectively addressed, how can government ensure that EORs support our efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change across all regimes?

Setting outcomes

4.1 The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has been drafted to allow the Secretary of State to set outcomes which a plan or project will have to report against (clause 138). Outcomes will be high level and reflect the government’s environmental ambitions. To provide the necessary safeguards for our environment, the Bill places a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that regulations to introduce an outcomes-based approach do not reduce the overall level of environmental protection provided by existing environmental law (clause 142(1)).

4.2 Building on the provisions in the Environment Act 2021, the Bill – subject to Royal Assent – will ensure the Secretary of State has regard to the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan when setting outcomes (clause 138(5)). This does not preclude the Secretary of State from considering other relevant material when setting outcomes – for example, the Clean Air Strategy and UK Marine Strategy, both of which are referenced in the Environmental Improvement Plan.

4.3 We intend for outcomes to be set in secondary legislation with a supporting suite of indicators set out in guidance. There will be a number of indicators for each outcome.

4.4 Draft outcomes will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and public consultation. This will ensure they effectively deliver on our commitment to non-regression in the Bill and create a final set of outcomes that everyone can have confidence in. Setting outcomes in secondary legislation will ensure the government is able to react to new evidence and update outcomes if required. Reviews will be supported by evidence gathered throughout the assessment process, and by actively monitoring the delivery of individual outcomes.

4.5 While recognising the variations between environmental assessment regimes, we believe there is benefit in retaining a common approach wherever possible. To support this, we will seek to develop a set of core outcomes that would provide the basis for each regime (see below). Departments would then be able to add further outcomes to capture the nature of development activity in that regime.

Guiding principles for the development of outcomes

4.6 The setting of outcomes will be subject to future public consultation. However, in developing outcomes to inform that consultation, we propose to use the following guiding principles to ensure consistency of approach across environmental issues:

4.7 Outcomes should:

  • drive the achievement of statutory environmental targets and the Environment Improvement Plan
  • be measurable using indicators at the correct scale (see paragraphs 4.15 to 4.20 for further detail on indicators)
  • be designed using the knowledge and experience of sector groups and environmental experts
  • have an organisation responsible for monitoring overall progress of specific outcomes i.e., a responsible ‘owner’
  • be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they remain relevant
  • do not duplicate matters more effectively addressed through policy.

Question 1: Do you support the principles that will guide the development of outcomes? [Yes/No].

4.8 Outcomes will be developed and tested over the coming months, and subject to consultation.

4.9 The list of potential matters that could be reflected as outcome (below) reflect the elements of the Environmental Improvement Plan where environmental assessment can have the most impact. We will also consider how we can best use EORs to achieve health related outcomes, and this will be subject to further policy development. The list reflects the most common, and significant elements of assessment that arise in current practice. They should be applicable across all regimes and provide a more effective foundation for assessment going forward.

4.10 The government expects that the matters not in the list below will be picked through regime specific outcomes, in accordance with the specific legislative and policy framework, and pressures and needs, of each regime.

  • biodiversity
  • air quality
  • landscape and seascape
  • geodiversity, soil and sediment
  • noise and vibration
  • water
  • waste
  • cultural heritage and archaeology

4.11 Further details of our approach to managing the effects of climate change in paragraphs 4.25 -4.33 below.

4.12 In considering outcomes, we want to be live to the potential for overlap and duplication between policy and assessment. We will seek to avoid replicating elements of assessment where change is more effectively achieved elsewhere within the framework, within which the assessment process sits. An example of this could be consideration of cultural heritage issues in the planning system where this is already required under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the National Planning Policy Framework and the National Policy Statements (for Development Consent Orders/NSIPs).

4.13 For some matters, such as issues with an insignificant local impact but which are important cumulatively, addressing an impact through policy, and policy compliance, could be more appropriate and effective at achieving change on the ground than including in the EOR regime. We will work with users, experts, and stakeholders over the coming months to refine our approach to outcomes ahead of launching a formal consultation.

4.14 Annex A includes an illustrative example of what an outcome could look like.

Demonstrating how outcomes are met

4.15 Outcomes will reflect national priorities, but it is important that they are applicable to assessments at various spatial scales, including the project level. We will need to be able to measure how a development contributes to the delivery of an outcome and propose to do this using a national indicator set. This set will be based on existing indicators as far as possible and will be nationally set and agreed. Indicators will be set out in guidance. However, they will be expected to be applied consistently for all assessments at the plan and project level.

4.16 Indicators will predominantly be data sets based on underlying technical work and analysis, such as physical surveys and population counts. Indicators will be of a scale relative to the geography of an area, be that at a strategic level for plans or a site-based level for specific developments. These indicators will measure the expected change resulting from the plan or project against the baseline conditions and in the light of any wider trend data.

4.17 The details of outcomes and indicators will be developed through consultation and testing with the sector and relevant stakeholders.

4.18 As with outcomes, indicators will need to comply with a set of principles. Indicators must be:

  • clearly and directly relevant to one or more priority outcomes
  • non-duplicative
  • proportionate
  • drawn from existing data sets, wherever possible
  • measurable at the correct scale (i.e. strategic or project level)
  • evidence based
  • replicable
  • owned and managed
  • supported by a clear methodology and guidance − including how they will be updated as new data emerges

4.19 While there is a clear driver to increase the certainty of assessment through measurable indicators, certain outcomes may not be conducive to a quantitative metric and agreed assessment methodologies that draw on qualitative assessment, using professional judgement, may have to be used. In these circumstances, a succinct written description of the findings, which signposts any proportionate underlying technical work, would be acceptable.

Question 2: Do you support the principles that indicators will have to meet? [Yes/No].

Question 3: Are there any other criteria we should consider?

4.20 The indicator model will allow regime owners to produce guidance as to how relevant plans and projects demonstrate they are supporting the delivery of outcomes. The guidance will ensure all parties have the confidence to manage and fully engage with the new process. Under clause 148 (Guidance), public authorities (and, if regulations provide, other persons with functions under EOR Regulations) must have regard to this guidance, which will make developers and plan-makers aware from the outset what they need to do to demonstrate they are supporting the delivery of environmental outcomes.

4.21 Using data obtained on performance of the regimes (section 10), guidance will be regularly reviewed allowing us to amend our approach as we understand more about how plans and projects are affecting the delivery of outcomes. Guidance will facilitate innovation and best practice, recognising that innovation often originates at the local level, before being adopted nation-wide. To help us develop the guidance, we will set up a working group or groups to ensure we harness the experience of users, consultees, the development sectors, and subject matter experts.

Reporting against outcomes

4.22 Each environmental assessment regime will be able to use the powers in the Bill to develop their own tailored approach to assessment. This section uses information gathered from engagement with users of the Town and Country Planning and infrastructure planning regimes to consider how best to approach reporting against outcomes.

4.23 Users told us that the scoping process is driven by fear of legal challenge, and this is preventing all parties from reducing what issues are included in the assessment. To address this, within the Town and Country Planning and NSIP regimes, we will test an approach where applicants report on the performance of projects or plans against all relevant outcomes on a proportionate basis. This would include a minimal assessment of the outcome for those circumstances where a full assessment is not required, for example an assessment of an underwater construction activity (once operational) on air quality. It will be rare that outcomes are not relevant at all as most will require a degree of desktop analysis to be ‘scoped out’ – similar to current practice during the preparation of a scoping report.

4.24 This will allow assessment to focus resources on the most relevant issues for that plan or development. This will save time and resource in developing and submitting a scoping report, waiting months for a response, and which ultimately scopes only the most obvious issues out.

Question 4: Would you welcome proportionate reporting against all outcomes as the default position? [Yes/No].

Question 5: Would it be effective in reducing bureaucratic process, or could this simply result in more documentation?

Going further for the environment

4.25 Reforming environmental assessment provides us with the unique opportunity to go further for the environment. Not only will we aim make best use of the various mechanisms and tools currently in use, but we will use the EORs to amplify government initiatives such as Biodiversity Net Gain and Local Nature Recovery Strategies.

4.26 It is vital that local communities and the wider public have confidence that the environmental impacts of development are properly considered. In going further for the environment, we need to ensure that assessments effectively consider climate change. Climate change is an umbrella term that refers to mitigation (reducing the causes of climate change) and adaptation (adjusting to the effects of climate change). Matters like climate change are not a single issue but complex network of interconnecting considerations. Climate change covers many different considerations and is not always directly, or effectively, measurable in itself.

4.27 The definitions in the Bill are broad and enable us to support a range of outcomes including ‘natural systems, cycles and processes’. Many of the potential indicators used in the assessment framework will relate to climate change. Addressing the effects of climate change is also inherent in the consideration of many of the listed in the elements in paragraph 4.10 above.

4.28 Assessments need to be effective – that is, have the potential to result in change on the ground. On some matters, assessments have struggled to reflect the importance of the issue − for example, where findings are concluded to be ‘insignificant’ when assessed on a case-by-case basis and mitigation therefore not required. The current practice of carbon assessment of projects within EIA is one example of this – with emissions often significantly less than 1% of the baseline, or other reference point. Use of environment assessment in this way is failing to secure the change we desperately need.

4.29 We are reviewing how EORs could be used effectively to help support efforts to reduce the carbon impact of development − given current issues with the timing of assessments late in the development life cycle, and issues of scale and significance in assessments set out above. These reforms will allow us to best consider the role tools like environmental assessment should play in addressing crucial issues like the challenges of transitioning to net zero.

4.30 We will also consider how EORs could be used effectively to support efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change, given the broad range of adaptation needs across regimes ranging from agriculture to offshore oil and gas. This could include how we mainstream adaptation across all regimes and within related outcomes (i.e. addressing climate-related flood risk as part of a water outcome). Government is working to develop the UK’s third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) that addresses all 61 risks and opportunities identified in our third Climate Change Risk Assessment. The integration of climate risk considerations in EORs would support the overall development and delivery of NAP3.

4.31 We want to ensure we break the cycle where developments struggle to reflect how they address matters that are of national and global scale and importance. Matters of importance at the national, and international, scale such as climate change are most effectively addressed through strong legislation and policy, such planning policy and the building regulations. These set the framework for, and clearly define what good looks like.

4.32 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) clearly sets out that the government expects the planning system to help mitigate and adapt to climate change. The framework is also clear that that the planning system should support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate and take full account of flood risk and coastal change.

4.33 As part of our proposed changes to the planning system, and as committed to in the Net Zero Strategy, we will review national planning policy to make sure it contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation as fully as possible. Through the recent NPPF consultation, we sought views on a form of carbon impact assessment. Any potential changes to the NPPF, will be subject to public consultation and provide an opportunity to submit comments on the proposals.

Question 6: Given the issues set out above, and our desire to consider issues where they are most effectively addressed, how can government ensure that EORs support our efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change across all regimes?

4.34 Effective resources and waste management policy, and the move towards a circular economy will also play an essential role in our transition to net zero. The National Planning Policy for Waste (NPPW), supported by the Waste Management Plan for England, acknowledges that positive planning plays a pivotal role in delivering the country’s waste ambitions. It outlines that this will be achieved through the delivery of sustainable development and resource efficiency by driving waste management up the waste hierarchy.

4.35 Addressing our biggest challenges clearly through policy allows policy makers and developers to think about how to design for compliance from the very inception of their plans and projects. For most planning regimes, issues of policy compliance at the project level are addressed in a Planning Statement or similar policy document. This is the key application document which brings together all the overarching issues and makes the case for the development.

4.36 Our ambition to go further for the environment is not limited to climate change, and we will use future engagement and consultations to ensure we use outcomes to best effect. The government will seek views on how we can use outcomes to address these complex issues in an effective and proportionate manner and avoid duplication with activity carried out elsewhere.

5. What an Environmental Outcomes Report will cover


Clause 139 (Environmental outcomes reports for relevant consents and relevant plans) provides powers to make regulations requiring an EOR to be prepared and for this to be considered when deciding whether to a plan or project should go ahead. It outlines the requirements for what a report should contain including assessing reasonable alternatives and the mitigation hierarchy.

This chapter outlines initial proposals for streamlined environmental assessment reporting in EORs. We want to ensure the new system avoids duplication and takes a robust approach to assessment in line with mitigation hierarchy that is enshrined through legislation. By taking a new approach we will be able to retain the value of the assessment process while removing unnecessary process.

We would like views on:

Q.7. Do you consider there is value in clarifying requirements regarding the consideration of reasonable alternatives?

Q.8. How can the government ensure that the consideration of alternatives is built into the early design stages of the development and design process?

Better alignment between the strategic and the project scale

5.1 Strategic and project assessments need to be better aligned, with the strategic or plan-level assessment significantly narrowing the extent of assessment at the project scale. A more standardised approach to assessment across different spatial scales, working towards a common set of environmental outcomes, will help achieve this.

5.2 The powers in the Bill are designed to allow regulations to make provisions to streamline and avoid repetition in the process where impacts have already been adequately covered in a higher-level assessment (139(7)(d)). For example, where a local plan has sufficiently addressed an impact through policy, including any required mitigation, the project may not need to assess the effects of the project in full. To take advantage of this, the project will need to be in accordance with the required mitigation measures. Strategic or plan level monitoring will also need to have confirmed these to be effective, allowing the project assessment to focus solely on any localised, residual effects.

5.3 Users have told us that, in practice, the assessment of cumulative effects has been challenging and ineffective, particularly at the project level. The government is exploring how we can maximise the utility of this cumulative effects assessment at the strategic or plan level, where it is most effective, while recognising that the actual effects on the environment are often only accurately identifiable at the project level.

5.4 The government has heard repeatedly that reports are too long and complicated. Many find the size of reports daunting, methodologies difficult to follow and conclusions on the ‘likely significance’ of an effect subjective, vague and non-committal. These concerns are reflected in academic research[footnote 3] . The volume of material means important details can be buried in technical appendices. Uncertainties in the science or data or in implementation are not clearly identified and not clearly expressed.

5.5 The government wants these reports to be accessible to communities and other stakeholders, and to give decision-makers clear information on the extent to which a development supports the delivery of outcomes. We have committed to reducing the size and complexity of the assessment reports produced and will ensure the core report is an accessible and navigable document for all parties.

5.6 As well as reporting on outcomes, the powers in the Bill will ensure assessments take a more proactive and effective approach to important matters like the assessment of alternatives (clause 139(5)) and the consideration of the mitigation hierarchy – see below (clause 139(4)(b)).

5.7 EORs will succinctly summarise and signpost underlying technical work carried out for the development of the plan or project. By way of example, for an application under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 at the project level, an EOR should contain:

  • a short introduction (which references the project details in the accompanying Planning Statement)
  • a short, high level, summary of how reasonable alternatives and the mitigation hierarchy were considered early in the development of the project
  • an assessment of contribution towards achieving an outcome supported by the indicators set out in guidance - this will include
    • the residual[footnote 4] effects on the environment identified through the underlying technical work, with relevant conclusions in the technical work clearly pinpointed
    • the current baseline and relevant trend data, similarly identified
    • commentary on levels of uncertainty for that data or indicator set
    • proposed mitigation, and
    • monitoring proposals
  • a summary of the contribution of the cumulative effects of the project as a whole on outcomes and how this relates to the conclusions of any strategic or plan level assessment.

5.8 As now, the underlying technical analysis and reports should identify the effects of the plan, programme or project to support and inform the assessment against outcomes, measured using indicators at the relevant scale (clause 139(4)(a)).

5.9 Technical reports will remain separate, standalone documents as is the case for plans and projects that do not require an environmental assessment. This should ensure important technical detail is not buried in appendices and make the technical reports more accessible to users and the public.

Assessment of reasonable alternatives

5.10 This stage of the process aims to ensure that the consideration of options with less damaging effects on the environment is carried out at an early stage, where it is most effective and delivers the greatest environmental gains. This is when we can achieve the most for the environment, for the least cost. Users have told us that, done well, this is one of the most valuable aspects of the existing assessment process.

5.11 However, users have also told us there is confusion about the range and scale of reasonable alternatives that are required to be considered as part of the current process. Examples given included having to consider alternative sites for a development project proposed for a particular site. Users also told us that consideration of reasonable alternatives is often retrofitted and are not infrequently a ‘cut and paste’ from assessments carried out for other plans and projects. This reduced trust in the findings of the assessment.

5.12 Given the importance of the consideration of alternatives and the need to ensure this is properly captured, we want to resolve any ambiguity around the need to consider alternatives in the early stages, and throughout, the assessment process.

5.13 This will require plan-makers and developers to provide a summary record of their decision-making on alternatives. This is not intended to be a comprehensive assessment of alternatives rather, a high-level summary of the key dates when decisions were taken, and how the mitigation hierarchy was applied throughout the design and development of the plan or project. There is no right or wrong alternative, the idea being to identify and facilitate best practice during the development of the policy, plan or project. We intend the consideration of alternatives to be reviewed and, if necessary and reasonable, updated by the plan maker or applicant, prior to submission as part of the EOR to capture any subsequent changes in the plan or project. The design evolution section in the Planning Statement is where developers can tell the story of the plan or project, and why it is the best it can be.

5.14 Guidance will be clear that realistic alternatives, fully consistent with the primary objectives of the project, should be considered, with no need to assess and report against any options that would not be credible.

Question 7: Do you consider there is value in clarifying requirements regarding the consideration of reasonable alternatives? [Yes/No].

Question 8: How can the government ensure that consideration of reasonable alternatives is built into the early design stages of the development and design process?

6. When an Environmental Outcomes Report is required


Clause 140 (Power to define “relevant consent” and “relevant plan” etc) allows regulations to be brought forward which specify when an Environmental Outcomes Report is required.

This chapter outlines changes to screening criteria and the introduction of Category 1 and Category 2 consents to replace the existing thresholds for assessment. We want to simplify the process of deciding when an assessment is required by being clearer about what does, and does not, require assessment. While recognising that there will always be borderline cases, we want to make this process as simple as possible and provide decision-makers with a clear framework when considering borderline cases.

We would like views on:

Q.9. Do you support the principle of strengthening the screening process to minimise ambiguity?

Q.10. Do you consider that proximity or impact pathway to a sensitive area or a protected species could be a better starting point for determining whether a plan or project might require an environmental assessment under Category 2 than simple size thresholds? [Yes/No].

Q.11. If yes, how could this work in practice? What sort of initial information would be required?

6.1 The first stage of the process is to decide whether assessment is required. This is a time-consuming activity that also carries the highest risk of legal challenge, further complicated by a common reluctance to undertake environmental assessments as they are often viewed as resource intensive with little value. Some regimes, such as Forestry, screen out the vast majority of cases, with only a very small minority consented via an EIA application.

6.2 The Bill provides powers to clearly set what plans and projects require environmental assessment and avoid borderline cases because of unclear criteria which are then at high risk of legal challenge. As now, all projects in, or partly within, sensitive areas such as protected sites, will require screening, and the greater the potential impact on the environment, and the greater the probability that the plan or project will require an environmental assessment. A review of 65 screening requests under the Town and Country Planning regime referred to Secretary of State between 2019 – 2021, found that 15 required an Environmental Statement. The overwhelming reason for requiring an Environmental Statement in 14 out of the 15 cases was the location of development in relation to a sensitive site.

6.3 The Bill has been designed to allow the government to set out in regulations what plans and types of development fall into one of two categories requiring assessment.

  • Category 1 consents will require an assessment in all circumstances.
  • Category 2 consents will require an assessment if the criteria set out in the regulations are met.

6.4 ‘Screening’ decisions for the smaller number of Category 2 consents will remain the judgement and discretion of the consenting authority, but regulations will narrow the scope for discussion by being more prescriptive on how borderline cases should be considered.

6.5 The detail of what plans, and projects require assessment will be consulted on as part of developing regulations. While not seeking to expand the types of plans and projects that require assessment, clearer process should mean that these plans and projects are easier to identify as the uncertainties stemming from the current schedules are reduced.

6.6 Comprehensive and up to date lists for Category 1 consents will provide clarity on those developments that will always require assessment.

6.7 For Category 2, given the findings in paragraph 6.2, the government is exploring whether we should revisit the current screening criteria and consider whether and how, we could better use proximity, or a defined impact pathway, to a sensitive receptor. For example, the potential effects on a particular community or species could be used as the starting point for considering whether an assessment is required, instead of, a simple project size threshold. This would place protecting sensitive sites and species at the heart of all screening activity, with the scale of development as the secondary consideration.

6.8 This clarity on when assessment is required will ensure that the right plans and projects are assessed, and that assessment of subsequent applications is proportionate.

Question 9: Do you support the principle of strengthening the screening process to minimise ambiguity?

Question 10: Do you consider that proximity or impact pathway to a sensitive area or a protected species could be a better starting point for determining whether a plan or project might require an environmental assessment under Category 2 than simple size thresholds? [Yes/No].

Question 11: If yes, how could this work in practice? What sort of initial information would be required?

7. Strengthening mitigation


Clause 139 (Environmental outcomes reports for relevant consents and relevant plans) will allow us to introduce a more robust approach to how mitigation is considered throughout the development of the policy, plan or project.

This section sets out how we could use these powers to ensure a robust approach to mitigation and to use monitoring to ensure assessment delivers for the environment. In the new system, we want to maximise the value of assessment through effective monitoring and mitigation, backed up with powers to address issues if they arise.

We would like views on:

Q.12. How can we address issues of ineffective mitigation?

Q.13. Is an adaptive approach a good way of dealing with uncertainty? [Yes/No].

Q.14. Could it work in practice? What would be the challenges in implementation?

7.1 The environment is a complex system and we do not have full knowledge about how it works. This makes it hard to be certain of the effects of future plans or projects on it. In developing the regulations, we will seek to secure better transparency on the uncertainties inherent in the process of predicting the environmental effects of future development activity.

7.2 Ensuring that all steps are taken to avoid damage and mitigate the impact of development is central to these reforms. To support this, the Bill enshrines the mitigation hierarchy as a fundamental component of the new system of environmental assessment. The mitigation hierarchy preferentially applies the environmental principles of prevention of harm and rectification at source to managing the effects of development on the environment.

7.3 This will be the first time the mitigation hierarchy is set in legislation and will be a significant step to ensuring the environmental effects of development are properly addressed in the development and design of a plan or development project.

7.4 Varying interpretations of the mitigation hierarchy exist but we have captured the following core elements under clause 139:

  • Avoidance: Measures that prevent adverse effects on the environment– for example, the avoidance of sensitive sites or use of alternative technologies.
  • Mitigation: Measures that lessen the magnitude or significance of adverse effects on the environment.
  • Compensation: Measures that offset adverse effects on the environment – for example, enhancing a nature site nearby. This is always the last resort because of the significant level of uncertainty that the measure will effectively address the environmental harm. Compensation also requires strategic oversight to manage any potential for double counting with other initiatives, and to ensure other initiatives such as environmental net gain are not retrofitted into compensatory measures.

7.5 Clause 139 goes further than the core elements of the recognised mitigation hierarchy to ensure that where related steps are taken – such as steps to enhance outcomes are captured and assessed as part of the EOR.

7.6 To be effective, the hierarchy will need to be considered as part of the assessment of alternatives early in the development of the plan or project and reviewed as the plan or project evolves. We propose that applicants will be required to report on the steps undertaken at the design and development stage to avoid an adverse impact on the environment.

7.7 There are significant and widespread benefits from applying the hierarchy early, including reductions in costs and delays to developers associated with unplanned remedial work resulting from an unacceptable environmental impact or legal challenge. We are therefore taking powers in the Bill to make the consideration and application of the hierarchy standard practice.

7.8 Agreed mitigation is not always effective and may on occasion need to be reviewed following implementation. Any changes to mitigation need to be made using a transparent and accountable process. Adaptive management (also known as Dynamic Mitigation or Adaptive Planning) allows mitigation to be adjusted in response to greater certainty on effects following implementation. We are exploring how adaptive management could help manage uncertainty in assessment of the effects of development on the environment.

7.9 The Bill gives the government stronger powers to require adaptive or dynamic mitigation and remedial actions to be taken where monitoring shows that progress towards an environmental outcome is not as expected, or an unexpected adverse effect, not predicted in the assessment, has arisen. This will enable the new system to be more proactive in ensuring that proposed mitigation is delivering as proposed and take action if it falls short.

7.10 At times, mitigation measures will be unable to address the full range of environmental impacts. Clearer process will better identify residual environmental effects, and allow greater transparency of these impacts, when considered alongside other material considerations, for decision-makers when considering whether to adopt a plan or grant a consent.

Question 12: How can we address issues of ineffective mitigation?

Question 13: Is an adaptive approach a good way of dealing with uncertainty? [Yes/No].

Question 14: Could it work in practice? What would be the challenges in implementation?

8. Mainstreaming monitoring


Clause 141 (Assessing and monitoring impact on outcomes) will allow us to introduce a more robust approach to how the delivery of outcomes is monitored.

This section sets out how we could use these powers to ensure a robust approach to mitigation and to use monitoring to ensure assessment delivers for the environment. In the new system, we want to maximise the value of assessment through effective monitoring and mitigation, backed up with powers to address issues if they arise.

We would like views on:

Q.15. Would you support a more formal and robust approach to monitoring? [Yes/No].

Q.16. How can the government use monitoring to incentivise better assessment practice?

Q.17. How can the government best ensure the ongoing costs of monitoring are met?

Q.18. How should the government address issues such as post-decision costs and liabilities?

8.1 The government recognises that we often do not know with certainty the effects of proposed plan or development at the time of making a decision. The policy and legal framework through which development activity is managed can be complicated. For the Town and Country Planning, and infrastructure planning regimes, it is common that projects evolve as they are implemented, following the decision to grant consent. Delivery of mitigation through consent mechanisms is also inherently uncertain , and mitigation measures may, in themselves, have unintended consequences, not known at the time of the decision. This makes effective monitoring processes essential in ensuring plans and projects are as proposed, and their effects are as predicted in the assessment.

8.2 The purpose of the monitoring is to verify whether the effects of a development on the environment are as predicted in the assessment. It also checks whether mitigation to address issues arising has been implemented as proposed, and is working as expected, within the timeframes agreed as part of the planning process.

8.3 While monitoring is required under the current system, for many of the regimes, monitoring is intermittent and patchy at the strategic level, and inadequate at the project level – the exception being the minerals, waste, and offshore wind sectors. When faced with competing calls on resources, authorities often consider it to be a lower priority activity.

8.4 The government has also found that measures proposed as mitigation to address the environmental effects of development are also often not implemented as originally proposed in the assessment, and sometimes not at all.

8.5 Users and stakeholders have told us that monitoring is critical in ensuring that assessment actually works, and to allow lessons learnt to be fed into the environmental design of future projects. Continuing high levels of scientific uncertainty mean that many users, academics and practitioners now regard it as the most important element of environmental assessment.

8.6 Developers and infrastructure providers also acknowledged the benefits better monitoring could provide – they were particularly interested in terms of better access to robust environmental data which could be used to inform future assessments, and certainty about the degree to which proposed mitigations are effective. They were generally supportive of monitoring – provided it was carried out for a clearly defined purpose (i.e. was targeted to the uncertainties in the assessment; proportionate to the nature and scale of the project; and liabilities and timeframes were limited).

8.7 To make sure that the value of monitoring is recognised, and monitoring activity prioritised, we intend to clarify monitoring requirements and directly link monitoring with data collection to inform our understanding of the environment. Clause 141 will give the government the powers to require assessments, and any mitigation measures proposed, are properly monitored to ensure they are delivering the level of environmental protection envisaged in the EOR. If the anticipated levels are not met and remediation proves necessary, it will be pursued and enforced.

8.8 Improved monitoring will benefit all parties as it will provide accessible data and reduce areas of uncertainty and the risk of delay in examinations. Better monitoring could help identify which types of effects are predicted less accurately than others, allowing industry to innovate to improve prediction, assessment and mitigation techniques. Monitoring could also help provide more accurate baseline data for future assessments, improving the accuracy of EORs.

8.9 The government will explore the range of options for securing the resources required to take remedial action, such as when a developer is no longer present, or a shell company has dissolved. This could include the use of bonds, escrow accounts and any potential role that third parties could play.

8.10 The Bill – subject to Royal Assent – will also give us powers to make regulations enforcing the delivery of environmental protections such as mitigation and remediation measures.

Question 15: Would you support a more formal and robust approach to monitoring? [Yes/No].

Question 16: How can the government use monitoring to incentivise better assessment practice?

Question 17: How can the government best ensure the ongoing costs of monitoring are met?

Question 18: How should the government address issues such as post-decision costs and liabilities?

9. Unlocking data


The planning data clauses 78-82 in the Bill allow planning authorities to require standardised data and allows the Secretary of State to require that this standardised data be made openly available.

This chapter outlines how data will be used in the new system of EORs. We want to ensure that the large quantity of data produced through assessment is captured and available to support our understanding of the environment and improve the quality of future assessments.

We would like views on:

Q.19. Do you support the principle of environmental data being made publicly available for future use?

Q.20. What are the current barriers to sharing data more easily?

Q.21. What data would you prioritise for the creation of standards to support environmental assessment?

9.1 The Bill is seeking to bring forward the digitisation of planning services. Digitisation, increasing online access, and unlocking issues with data is essential to a simpler, faster and more effective environmental assessment process. Simplifying access and better use and reuse of essential data can help us to deliver a faster, fairer and greener assessment process.

9.2 Data is also being used in the assessment, and then ‘lost’ to the system as it is not machine readable, is not publicly available, or is not actively captured by a relevant data owner for future use in subsequent assessments and reporting on the state of the environment. This leads to inefficiencies, as information that could be re-used as the baseline (reference point for the assessment) for the development of the next plan or project and to carry out its assessment, is lost.

9.3 The most common data issue is that the right kind of data is inaccessible to users – at all scales but particularly at the strategic level. Other concerns are that: existing data is prolific but does not meet the process needs (i.e. it is not the right kind of information particularly with regard to interactions between complex ecosystem processes); and/or it is of variable quality (e.g. it has been collected intermittently or for another purpose).

9.4 In some cases the data used in the assessment is collected as part of earlier technical assessments carried out as part of the studies which inform the design and development of the plan or project e.g. ecological surveys for plans and projects under the Town and Country Planning regime.

9.5 Reforms will ensure that data collected through monitoring current assessments can be re-used to provide the baseline or trend data to help inform future assessments. It will also inform the relevant authorities report on performance against outcomes, and input into Government reviews of guidance and the performance of the regime.

9.6 Collecting and reusing data will help to close the cycle of assessment. Capturing data more effectively will:

  • deepen our understanding of the state of the environment
  • inform future policy development
  • make future assessments quicker and easier to carry out
  • help us understand the effectiveness of assessment; and
  • provide feedback on the effectiveness of the types of mitigation proposed.

9.7 Users will be able to use certain data (subject to the copyright of that data) so they can readily access it and use it to inform the development of the policy, plan or project as well as carry out the assessment in an efficient way.

Question 19: Do you support the principle of environmental data being made publicly available for future use?

Question 20: What are the current barriers to sharing data more easily?

9.8 The data can also be used to inform related systems such as Local Nature Recovery Strategies and reporting on related environmental targets.

9.9 The powers in the Bill are designed to allow us to ensure that environmental data is standardised and made available for future use. It will ensure that the data submitted will be in a form that enables it to be captured for future use by relevant data holders to support future assessments.

9.10 The evidence needs of assessment can be large, so we will need to prioritise certain data sets. Higher standards of consistency and transparency will apply equally across environmental data held by government.

Question 21: What data would you prioritise for the creation of standards to support environmental assessment?

10. Reporting against performance


Clause 146 (Reporting) provides the government with the power to require public authorities to report on the performance against specified environmental outcomes. This will allow the government to build a picture of whether and how environmental outcomes are being achieved across the country.

This chapter considers how this power could be used to ensure we capture information at a national level to consider the overall impact and effectiveness of environmental assessment. We want to get accountability in the right place, and ensure we are able to use information to help build a national picture of how we are managing the effects of development on the environment over time.

We would like views on:

Q.22. Would you support reporting on the performance of a plan or project against the achievement of outcomes? [Yes/ No].

Q.23. What are the opportunities and challenges in reporting on the achievement of outcomes?

10.1 The government seeks to increase transparency on the effectiveness of the assessment processes so we can ensure that the system is delivering as it should for the environment and communities. The powers in the Bill aim to ensure that accountability for the effectiveness of the process is in the right place and sets out the powers to report on the overall performance of the assessment regime. This will allow the government to require public authorities to report back on the overall performance and delivery of environmental outcomes and allow the government to build a picture of the delivery of environmental outcomes across the country.

10.2 While the detail of reporting is still to be developed, the intention is to increase accessibility by using this power to require authorities to provide annual consolidated information on how their plans are delivering on environmental outcomes. We will avoid duplication in reporting. This must be linked to and carried out in conjunction with other strategic level monitoring requirements, including local plan monitoring and the Environment Act 2021 duty for public authorities to produce a Biodiversity Report every five years. In time, better data collection processes will allow this to be done digitally.

10.3 Reporting on performance will allow us to better address issues as they emerge and amend guidance to support practice in a timely manner when required. It will also be a vehicle for collecting environmental data, to be used for future assessments, and related initiatives.

Question 22: Would you support reporting on the performance of a plan or projects against the achievement of outcomes? [Yes/ No].

Question 23: What are the opportunities and challenges in reporting on the achievement of outcomes?

10.4 Table 2 shows the main differences between the existing and proposed processes

Table 2: Overview of differences between the current and new regimes.

Stage The current system Environmental Outcomes Reports
Screening A case-by-case approach to screening introduces uncertainty and delay through risk of legal challenge. Clear criteria for what requires assessment will remove the need for screening in the vast majority of cases.
Scoping Expanded scoping has led to bloated assessments that don’t support communities or decision makers. Scoping can take months and fear of legal challenge means that scope is rarely effectively reduced. This, together with duplication with other activity, increases the scale and cost of assessment, and assessment timeframes. Proportionate assessment against agreed outcomes will remove the need for lengthy scoping exercises. Outcomes can be scoped out based on a desktop analysis of accessible, up to date, and reliable data. Clarity about what is assessed at strategic and project levels.
Assessment Assessments have become unclear and complex. Considerations of alternatives can be carried out too late in the process to make any real difference.
Assessments can duplicate work carried out elsewhere in the primary, overlying, planning processes.
Management of uncertainty is unclear. Effectiveness of mitigation is assumed, often with little evidence in support.
Assessment against outcomes supported by approved indicators will ensure assessment tells the story of how the development is contributing to the government’s environmental ambitions.
A requirement to apply the mitigation hierarchy in the design and development of the plan or project. Greater clarity about what reasonable alternatives should be considered, and how.
Reporting Voluminous documentation with repetitive and excessively detailed descriptions, methodologies, and policy act as a barrier to effective reporting. For EIA other ‘non-EIA’ matters included in reports.
Assessments of significance are often subjective and vague.
Reporting against agreed outcomes will allow for concise summaries that pinpoint relevant sections in supporting technical analysis.
The findings of the technical analyses are more accessible, making them of real use to decision makers and communities.
Monitoring and remediation Requirements are often unclear, under-resourced and unenforced. Inflexible plan-making and consenting regimes make changes to mitigation and delivery of remediation challenging. Useful information is permanently lost. Strengthened requirements will better address uncertainty and post-implementation issues. This will help drive best practice backed up by stronger enforcement of mitigations and remedial actions. Data will be stored and inform future assessments.
Performance reporting The lack of reporting means the government lacks data on the effectiveness of the processes in protecting the environment. Agreed reporting requirements will support our understanding of the environment and the impact of development.

11. Next steps

User-Centred Process Design

11.1 Using feedback from this consultation, the government intends to develop and refine the system through active engagement with end users, decision-makers, consultees, and communities.

11.2 Our primary focus is to make sure the processes of assessment are fit for purpose, and effective. The proposals to date have been informed by engagement with users of the Town and Country Planning and infrastructure planning regimes such as developers, infrastructure providers, planners and environmental professionals. The government will continue to work with the users of the assessment regimes to ensure we have processes capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

11.3 The government is also beginning the process of formal engagement with consultees, environmental groups, and communities to seek their views on how we can be confident that the proposed processes will deliver what is needed to protect the environment.

Secondary Legislation and guidance

11.4 Regulations will be drafted by the different regime owners and will then be brought forward via secondary legislation for consultation as required under Clause 147 (Public Consultation), following Royal Assent. Guidance will be developed and brought forward to support the secondary legislation.

11.5 We will establish a working group of users and experts to ensure we are effectively meeting system needs and harnessing best practice nationally and internationally.


11.6 The government expects that a transition period will be required because of the lead times in developing plans and projects. As the requirement for underlying technical work on the effects of a plan or project and early stages of the assessment process (such as the consideration of alternatives) remain unchanged, the transition to reporting against outcomes will be as time-limited as is reasonable.

Question 24: Once regulations are laid, what length of transition do you consider is appropriate for your regime?

i) 6 months

ii) 1 year

iii) 2 years

Please state regime.

Supporting the capacity and capability across regimes

11.7 The government will develop a programme aimed at breaking down the barriers that exist in engaging with the current assessment processes and redefine them as good planning and decision-making practices.

11.8 Making sure that relevant authorities have the capacity and capability to successfully implement the changes proposed in the Bill is critical. The government will support and work with authorities to ensure that authorities have the capability and skills to provide an efficient service and feel confident they can protect our environment and deliver levelling up.

Question 25: What new skills or additional support would be required to support the implementation of Environmental Outcomes Reports?

Public Sector Equality Duty

11.9 While this consultation is seeking initial views on the overarching framework of powers, the government is also seeking to gather information to understand any equalities implications that will help inform the development of this policy.

Question 26: The government would be grateful for your comments on any impacts of the proposals in this document and how they might impact on eliminating discrimination, advancing equality and fostering good relations.

Annex A – Example of outcomes

1.1 The example below is included for illustrative purposes only. It shows how assessments could use outcomes and indicators.


1.2 The government has introduced new environmental targets through the Environment Act 2021 which will shape the biodiversity outcome at the strategic level. At a local/project level species-specific indicators will be needed to assess the project against the high-level outcome.

Outcome An increase in the abundance of protected species and supporting habitat

To complement the roll out of biodiversity net gain across the planning system, this outcome focusses on the support for protected species.

Strategic level indicator Changes in the status of protected species and supporting habitat across the geographic area

At a strategic level, this seeks to ensure a holistic view of the impact of development across the geographic area to ensure that biodiversity impacts are not considered in isolation.

Project level indicator Changes in the abundance and/or distribution of protected species and supporting habitat in the relevant geography, agreed study area or immediate locality

This ensures that site-specific consideration is given to any species present or that could be affected by the development.

About this consultation

This consultation document and consultation process have been planned to adhere to the Consultation Principles issued by the Cabinet Office.

Representative groups are asked to give a summary of the people and organisations they represent, and where relevant who else they have consulted in reaching their conclusions when they respond.

A summary of responses to this consultation will be published on GOV.UK. An annex to the consultation summary will list all organisations that responded but will not include personal names, addresses or other contact details.

The government may make the content of your response to this consultation available for use across government. Sharing of this data will not include any personal names or private contact details (for example, home address, email address).

Information provided in response to this consultation may be published or disclosed in accordance with the access to information regimes (these are primarily the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and UK data protection legislation. In certain circumstances this may therefore include personal data when required by law.

If you want the information that you provide to be treated as confidential, please be aware that, as a public authority, the Department is bound by the information access regimes and may therefore be obliged to disclose all or some of the information you provide. If we receive a request for disclosure of the information we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot give an assurance that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not, of itself, be regarded as binding on the Department.

If you click ‘No’ in responses to the question asking if you would like anything in your response to be kept confidential, we will be able to release the content of your response to the public. We will not make your personal name and private contact details publicly available.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will at all times process your personal data in accordance with UK data protection legislation and in the majority of circumstances this will mean that your personal data will not be disclosed to third parties. A full privacy notice is included below.

Individual responses will not be acknowledged. Your opinions are valuable to us. Thank you for taking the time to read this document and respond.

Are you satisfied that this consultation has followed the Consultation Principles? If not or you have any other observations about how we can improve the process please contact us via the complaints procedure.

Personal data

The following is to explain your rights and give you the information you are entitled to under UK data protection legislation.

Note that this section only refers to personal data (your name, contact details and any other information that relates to you or another identified or identifiable individual personally) not the content otherwise of your response to the consultation.

1. The identity of the data controller and contact details of our Data Protection Officer

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is the data controller. The Data Protection Officer can be contacted at or by writing to the following address:

Data Protection Officer,
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities,
Fry Building,
2 Marsham Street,

2. Why we are collecting your personal data

Your personal data is being collected as an essential part of the consultation process, so that we can contact you regarding your response and for statistical purposes. We may also use it to contact you about related matters.

We will collect your IP address if you complete a consultation online. We may use this to ensure that each person only completes a survey once. We will not use this data for any other purpose.

Sensitive types of personal data

Please do not share criminal offence data or special category personal data if we have not asked for it unless absolutely necessary for the purposes of your consultation response. By ‘special category personal data’, we mean information about a living individual’s:

  • race
  • ethnic origin
  • political opinions
  • religious or philosophical beliefs
  • trade union membership
  • genetics
  • biometrics
  • health (including disability-related information)
  • sex life; or
  • sexual orientation.

By ‘criminal offence data’, we mean information relating to a living individual’s criminal convictions or offences or related security measures.

The collection of your personal data is lawful under article 6(1)(e) of the UK General Data Protection Regulation as it is necessary for the performance by DLUHC of a task in the public interest/in the exercise of official authority vested in the data controller. Section 8(d) of the Data Protection Act 2018 states that this will include processing of personal data that is necessary for the exercise of a function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department i.e. in this case a consultation.

Where necessary for the purposes of this consultation, our lawful basis for the processing of any special category personal data or criminal offence data (terms explained under ‘Sensitive Types of Data’) which you submit in response to this consultation is as follows. The relevant lawful basis for the processing of special category personal data is Article 9(2)(g) UK GDPR (‘substantial public interest’), and Schedule 1 paragraph 6 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (‘statutory etc and government purposes’). The relevant lawful basis in relation to personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences data is likewise provided by Schedule 1 paragraph 6 of the Data Protection Act 2018.

4. With whom we will be sharing your personal data

DLUHC may appoint a ‘data processor’, acting on behalf of the department and under our instruction, to help analyse the responses to this consultation. Where we do, we will ensure that the processing of your personal data remains in strict accordance with the requirements of the data protection legislation.

5. For how long we will keep your personal data, or criteria used to determine the retention period.

Your personal data will be held for two years from the closure of the consultation unless we identify that its continued retention is unnecessary before that point.

6. Your rights, e.g. access, rectification, restriction, objection

The data we are collecting is your personal data, and you have considerable say over what happens to it. You have the right:

a. to see what data we have about you

b. to ask us to stop using your data, but keep it on record

c. to ask to have your data corrected if it is incorrect or incomplete

d. to object to our use of your personal data in certain circumstances

e. to lodge a complaint with the independent Information Commissioner (ICO) if you think we are not handling your data fairly or in accordance with the law. You can contact the ICO online, or telephone 0303 123 1113.

Please contact us at the following address if you wish to exercise the rights listed above, except the right to lodge a complaint with the ICO: or

Knowledge and Information Access Team,
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities,
Fry Building,
2 Marsham Street,

7. Your personal data will not be sent overseas.

8. Your personal data will not be used for any automated decision making.

9. Your personal data will be stored in a secure government IT system.

We use a third-party system, Citizen Space, to collect consultation responses. In the first instance your personal data will be stored on their secure UK-based server. Your personal data will be transferred to our secure government IT system as soon as possible, and it will be stored there for two years before it is deleted unless we identify that its continued retention is unnecessary before that point.

  1. R. (on the application of Finch) v Surrey CC [2022] EWCA Civ 187 (2022) 

  2. Derbyshire Waste Ltd vs Blewett and SoS for Environment [2004] EWCA Civ 1508 at para 42 

  3. For example Singh, G; Lerner, J; Mach, et al. found that professional judgement is overwhelmingly the determinant of significance; and assessments lacked transparency and contained questionable analysis. They concluded that this may bias conclusions on determinations of significant negative impacts. Scientific Shortcomings in Environmental Impact Statements Internationally. In People and Nature. 2020;2:369–379. 

  4. The effects remaining after mitigation has been applied