Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay
Environment Agency Wales queried whether the changes to the scheme that have been made since their scoping response had been submitted, would place an obligation on the developer to revise their scoping report so that key environmental organisations within Wales such as EAW and the Countryside Council for Wales, could offer an updated comment on any amended scheme.
We note your comments that discussions with representatives of Tidal Lagoon Swansea Ltd are ongoing, and the concerns raised in your correspondence that the advice previously issued by EAW and CCW at the scoping stage could become irrelevant if the scheme were to change substantially from that which was submitted with a request for a scoping opinion in October 2012.
It is acknowledged that the EIA process is iterative, and therefore the proposals may change and evolve throughout the EIA process, for example, in response to the outcomes of the environmental assessment or consultation.
The Scoping Process
It should be noted that whilst there is no mandatory requirement for the Applicant to request another Scoping Opinion, should the scheme change substantially, prior to submission of the DCO application, from that which was considered in the preparation of a Scoping Opinion the Applicant may wish to consider the benefits of requesting a new Scoping Opinion from the SoS.
Consultation at the Pre-application stage
EAW may wish to note that the Applicant is yet to carry out formal consultation with prescribed consultees under Section 42 of the Planning Act, and as such there will be another formal opportunity for EAW and CCW to submit comments at the pre-application stage. It should also be noted that under the Planning Act the applicant has a duty to take account of responses to this formal consultation.
PINS encourage collaboration between all parties to support the resolution of issues at the pre-application stage. Where the scheme changes, the Applicant is encouraged to liaise with consultees to ensure that the scope of the EIA remains appropriate and that the main environmental effects of the scheme are fully assessed and where possible avoided or that appropriate mitigation is prescribed. It is in the Applicant?s interest to agree the scope and approach to assessment, along with the findings and mitigation with the relevant consultees in order to minimise areas of disagreement prior to submission of an application for a DCO. This is because there is limited scope to amend the DCO once an application has been submitted.
Whilst PINS welcomes and encourages regular dialogue between applicants and prescribed consultees, PINS recognises the resource requirements that this may place on consultees. The Applicant may wish to consider the benefit of agreeing a programme for consultation with the key consultees. This may incorporate key milestones in the preparation of the scheme, evidence requirements and timescales for responding to consultation during the pre-application process. This is in the interests of both the applicant and the statutory consultees and should facilitate the best use of resources and focussed and effective consultation that could minimise the risk of abortive work.
This advice will be forwarded to the Applicant along with the correspondence received from EAW.