Last edited 13 Oct 2020

Environmental impact

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The term ‘environmental impact’ refers to the possible effects a particular action may have on the natural environment. These effects can be either negative or positive.

According to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), the construction sector uses more than 400 million tons of material each year, much of which has a negative environmental impact. In particular, the products that are used during the construction process can be damaging due to intensive extraction of raw materials, transporting to manufacturing plant and site, energy consumption in manufacture and in use, waste generation and so on.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has highlighted the ‘significant change in the surface of a land’ due to construction activity which involves clearing vegetation, excavation, disrupting habitats, changes to drainage patterns and the water table, noise pollution, light pollution, dust, vibration and so on.

The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 sets out a requirement to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as part of the planning application process for certain projects (generally large or environmentally complex projects).

The purpose of an EIA is to ensure that the environmental effects of a proposed development are properly considered. An EIA provides the local planning authority with better information about certain types of project enabling them to make a more informed decision about whether permission should be granted and to allow imposition of more appropriate conditions and obligations to mitigate possible negative impacts.

Ecological Impact Assessments are a key part of EIAs. These identify, quantify and evaluate the potential impacts of on ecosystems or their components.

For more information see: Environmental impact assessment.

A construction environmental management plan may be developed, outlining how a construction project will avoid, minimise or mitigate impact on the environment and surrounding area.

For more information see: Construction environmental management plan.

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