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Scotland's EIA Conference 2019 reflections

28th May 2019

Rachel Taylor, Associate Environmental Planner reflects on the success of Scotland’s EIA conference. The conference looked at opportunities for enhancing Scottish EIA practice, both now and in the future, by exploring how sharing innovation and experience can drive more effective assessments.

Scotland’s premier Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conference returned for its third year and was delivered in partnership with Fothergill Training & Consulting Ltd, the Scottish Government and the EIA consultation bodies - SEPA, SNH, HES. The conference provided the perfect platform for the EIA community of planners, consultants, developers and others to join like minded professionals and share their experiences within the field.

Scotland’s EIA Conference stimulated many thought-provoking discussions that were enhanced through the practice sessions. Delegates were divided into groups and given the opportunity to attend three discussion sessions related to EIA innovation and good practice. The first session was on Digital EIA, which explored how digital technology can help to deliver more effective practice. The second was on EIA Future baselines, which explored the importance of considering baseline evolution and how it can be used to support regeneration. The third and final session was on Collaborative Scoping, which highlighted the value of a scoping process that allows the EIA to develop alongside the design.

During the conference I was excited to be joining a host of other speakers drawn from Government, Local Authorities and the Consultation bodies. I joined the Scottish Government in sharing our insight on the topic “Plenary: EIA’s role in place-making”. I was able to share our experience and integrated approach to EIA. This was alongside how this helps to influence placemaking and the communities within which developments are located. The speaking session ignited several insightful discussions which I was able to shed light on during the Q&A panel session that concluded the conference. Some of the questions raised included how we can ensure that placemaking is embedded in the EIA process, and how we can encourage designers to think more innovatively, both of which I was able to lead discussions on. In answer to the first question I highlighted the word placemaking is not contained anywhere in the EIA Regulations. The EIA Regulations are more about a process of assessment and not a design guide. As EIA practitioners we need to encourage designers/developers to include it as part of a project. In answer to the second question I drew attention to the focus on being a responsible developer and quite often design initiatives like placemaking can make an unacceptable development into a more acceptable development in planning terms.

At the conference I was pleased to be joined by my colleague Peter George, Business Director in the Environmental Planning team. He mirrored my enthusiasm in his view that, “The event provides a great opportunity to share knowledge and experience from all over the UK and stimulate debate on making EIA more effective and proportionate.”

It was great to be a part of an insightful event that, through the meeting of other professionals within the field, it enhanced our knowledge of EIA and the opportunities it can bring to the future. The event also provided us with the opportunity to establish relationships with new clients that I look forward to collaborating with in the future.

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