Identifying significant environmental effects
5.1 Identifying significant environmental effects is crucial, both in determining whether EIA is required, and when determining the scope and content of any EIA Report.
- Whether or not an environmental effect is significant depends on a number of factors. It is a judgment to be made in each individual case.
Key message: Significance is generally determined on the basis of expert judgement, and it is possible that different experts may not always agree. To minimise the risk of challenge it is important to ensure that the manner in which significance has been attributed is transparent and repeatable.
Early and robust screening
5.2 EIA is most effective when used to inform the early design phase of a project. Early and robust screening decisions can help to:
- ensure environmental considerations are taken into account from the outset
- provide certainty to the developer
- avoid EIA being undertaking unnecessarily.
5.3 Scoping has an important role to play in achieving the Scottish Government's aim of proportionate and effective EIA. In order to gain the full benefits of EIA, case officers will wish to encourage developers to engage with the planning authority and with the Consultation Bodies during the early planning and design stages of a project. In this way EIA can help to facilitate the early avoidance of adverse effects through changes to design strategies. Smarter scoping will also help to facilitate proportionate and efficient EIA, by focusing resources on the significant issues. See paragraph 4.6 on the role of pre-application discussions, pre-application consultation, and on the use of Planning Processing Agreements during the early project initiation stage.
Preparation and content of the EIA Report
5.4 The EIA Report is the applicant's statement on the project, its likely significant environmental effects, and the measures proposed to mitigate adverse effects. The EIA Report is the main output of the EIA procedure and it follows that an EIA Report which is poorly written, and excessively long, can reduce the overall value of EIA to decision-makers  . In addition to ensuring compliance with schedule 4 of the EIA Regulations - and to improve transparency - developers and their agents have a responsibility to produce EIA Reports which are;
- Clear & concise - the EIA Report should contain a clear analysis of the significant areas of impact. It should highlight key issues relevant to the decision and present them in a non-promotional way which can be understood by all. Technical appendices should be cross-referenced where relevant and proposed mitigation measures should be clearly sign-posted.
- Consistent - the EIA Report should be internally consistent and technical terms ( e.g. degrees of significance) should be clearly defined.
- Proportionate - the EIA Report should not be overly long and should make use of annexes for technical data and information where appropriate.
5.5 The Non-Technical Summary (see paragraph 4.22 above) should also reflect - in an accurate and balanced way - the key information contained in the EIA Report. It should be written in language which is understandable to the general public.